Frankenstein Bug

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. ”

Read more here.

(Image of E.coli courtesy of NIAID)

Norwegian Students Drinking E.Coli for Us All

Yes, E.coli, as in the frequent bathroom visit kind.

“20 year old medical student participates in an extraordinary research project at Haukeland University Hospital, where healthy students voluntarily get infected with E. coli bacteria. Then students’ stool samples are evaluated for developing a vaccine against the disease. Talking to TV2, project researcher Halvor Sommerfelt says that many children in developing countries still die from diarrheal disease, approximately 1.5 to 2 million children annually. This project aims to help developing a vaccine against one of the main causes of diarrhea among children in developing countries.”

“So far, 24 volunteers participated in the project, which is a collaboration between several countries, including the U.S. and Norway.”

More here.