By Laura Shin
Posting in Design
Scientists have engineered worms so their genetic code produces biological molecules not found in the natural world.
Scientists have engineered worms so that their genetic code produces biological molecules not found in the natural world.
Until now, there have only ever been 20 amino acids found in living organisms. With this breakthrough, scientists have altered DNA, which instructs how amino acids should arrange themselves to make proteins, so that it creates a 21st amino acid.
BBC News reports that researcher Dr. Jason W. Chin of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (where Francis Crick and James Watson first discovered the structure of DNA) calls the technique "potentially transformational." It means that scientists could have atom-by-atom control in creating designer proteins in living organisms.
The Cambridge University team described their work in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
This work represents an evolution in techniques Dr. Chin developed ten years ago when he was at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.
Then, he came up with a way for one of the four DNA letters (which are read in groups of three) to be reassigned so that cells would read it as an instruction to create an amino acid that didn't previously exist in living organisms. But at that time, he demonstrated it in the bacterium E. coli. Now, he has done the same in an animal.
Photo: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
Aug 12, 2011
Actually, I didn't say what the DNA letters were. And "amino" is spelled with one "m." But I didn't write to point those things out to you. I just thought you should know that it is a hallmark of good journalism that I wrote the story without assuming that everyone would remember their high school biology. If you look at the way that Popular Science and the BBC covered this story, they did the same. Because I briefly described those basics of biology, even readers who don't know the relationship between DNA, amino acids and proteins can understand how the researchers achieved this result. Laura
It tells us what the DNA letters are and what the ammino acid is as well as how it is incorporated in proteins. Why did they hire you as an editor?