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On May 7, 2014 Scientific American's article on how a bacterium's DNA was engineered to contain an unnatural genetic code, Rocked the world. Since time immemorial life as we know it contains only four nucleobases, adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C) and guanine (G). Now scientists have added two more bases to the DNA of a bacterium and changed the face of natural life with a sole purpose that more bases would mean that the DNA so engineered would now be able to carry more info.
THE BACTERIUM HAS ACCEPTED THIS CHANGE AND IS LIVING AND DIVIDING. The face of our future, LIFE's future, has been changed.
There can be a lot of consequences of whatever is achieved in a lab. For example what if the bacteria that a person is infected with can be 33% more powerful, like the one created in the lab??????????????? There can be a lot of positive effects too. Like better medical aid.
My question is, should we play God like this?
It makes me a little nervous. The bacteria could infect and kill the entire population if not handled correctly. Then again, you might be right about finding a new antibiotic or something that would cure cancer.
It's my basic feeling that scientific and technological advances mostly benefit humanity. I'd rather not do without my toilet, for instance.
Of course, like anything, there can be misuses and terrible consequences. But that is true of anything. Without venturing into new scientific and technological territory, we simply won't advance and won't be able to make life better for people. I'd rather see these advances than see them stifled.
I agree, but then we will have to extra cautious. Imagine a viral outbreak with a super viral RNA. The bacterial population with altered DNA will have to be kept isolated completely at all times.
Not really the same thing. An increase to information capacity means that the artificial DNA can hold more information compared to natural DNA. This has no bearing on whether a bacterium is pathogenic or 'friendly'.
Think of it like putting a new hard drive into your computer. It's the same physical size, but has a larger capacity for information storage. This larger capacity doesn't make it dangerous or different from the previous device.
So that basically means that this is a giant leap in evolution for the microbe under experimentation. The effects would be a lot more beneficial for us rather than being detrimental.
I'm not too sure. DNA codes RNA, which codes proteins. Proteins can be made from 20 different amino acids, but adding 2 more bases allows for the use of up to 172 different amino acids.
E.Coli is already used to produce proteins like insulin because we can't make these in any other way. Increasing its DNA capacity means we can use it to make proteins of increasing complexity and perhaps novel effects.
Who knows, perhaps it is possible to produce a novel protein that can readily induce apoptosis in cancer cells while not affecting healthy cells. Botox is also a protein though, and this is the most potent poison known to man. Allowing the bacteria to make unique proteins isn't beneficial or dangerous in itself, it's what we force it to make that is.
There seems to be a safety mechanism in the way they produced it anyway. The bacteria needs to be 'fed' the artificial bases, which aren't present in nature, and a specific gene derived from algae allows them to take in these bases. If the bases are removed from the environment or supply is used up, the bacteria go back to using only the 4 natural bases because the artificial bases can't be found in or produced by nature. So that should appease anyone who is afraid of runaway bacteria causing havoc. It reverts to the natural form outside the artificial environment.
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