Move over, ATCG – here comes DNA made with X and Y.

Scientists Re-engineer E. coli with Synthetic DNA

Instead of just the four “normal” letters of the language of DNA, scientists – monsters, to believe some – from Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California have successfully implanted a couple of extra letters into E. coli, and not only that, but it was successfully replicated for about a week.

The Upshot

So? Why is that special?

It’s not merely cool; it’s another step along the way to producing life, or medicines, or things way too complex for me to appreciate. The artificial life part is what captures my imagination. Robots are fine – I happen to possess one for vacuuming the living room – but what we all really want is something a little warmer, a little softer, and considerably more intelligent. Why settle for something that can only vacuum – and only adequately, at that – when you could have something that would do its chores, then go make you a sandwich and tell you how wonderful you look and smell?

Okay, there might be some opportunity for ethical abuses.  It’s not like governments can keep up with other, more obvious potential dangers – ask anyone who has spent any time with the TSA – but it will be fine.  No, honestly.  What could go wrong with E. coli carrying foreign DNA that fruitfully replicates?