Scientists at the Universities of Yale and Harvard have rewritten the entire genome of E.coli bacteria, re-engineering the bug to be resistant to viral infection. Their successful rewriting of E.coli is the first instance in which a genome was completely altered through human agency.
“‘This is the first time the genetic code has been fundamentally changed,’ said Farren Isaacs, assistant professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale. ‘Creating an organism with a new genetic code has allowed us to expand the scope of biological function in a number of powerful ways.’ Isaacs co-authored the study published in the Science journal this month with George Church of Harvard Medical School and the research is based out of the field of synthetic biology, which seeks to re-design natural biological systems for useful purposes. To change the bacteria, Isaacs worked with other researchers to substitute different codons or letters (that make up the nucleic acids of DNA) to create amino acids not found in nature. ”
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(Image of E.coli courtesy of NIAID)