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Biotech Science

Artificial Bases Added to DNA 362

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the totally-faked-you-out-man dept.
holy_calamity writes "Researchers have successfully added two 'unnatural' DNA letters to the code of life. They created two artificial base pairs that are treated as normal by an enzyme that replicates and fixes DNA inside cells. This raises the prospect of engineering life forms with genetic code not possible within nature, allowing new kinds of genetic engineering."
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Artificial Bases Added to DNA

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  • by Kagura (843695) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @11:58AM (#22234830)
    All your artificial base are belong to these researchers.
  • by should_be_linear (779431) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @11:59AM (#22234840)
    Researchers from KFC (tm) ?
  • by TheMeuge (645043) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:04PM (#22234882)
    Why is it that every single article that references any scientific development in the fields of genetics or molecular biology gets the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag on Slashdot? What does this say about our society, since Slashdot members tend to represent the more educated and successful members to begin with? Have we really become such fat lazy luddites that we will reject anything we do not understand, on the basis of an infinitesmally-small risk to our (relatively) decadent and luxurious life?

    Do we really only perceive biologists as madmen who want to do evil experients for the heck of it? I've seen this trend spiral out of control, and frankly, I am ASHAMED.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iONiUM (530420) *
      It's.. It's also possible that maybe it's just a joke in reference to all the related Sci-Fi movies that feature similar sets of scientific progress that go horribly wrong for the sake of ticket sales.

      The real question is when did the slashdot audience turn to such un-comical jackasses who feel the need to take everything so seriously? I get it, you're well off, you like science, you like to stay on slashdot because in your opinion it represents the more "successful" members of society. But then, maybe yo
      • by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:58PM (#22235566)

        The real question is when did the slashdot audience turn to such un-comical jackasses who feel the need to take everything so seriously? I get it, you're well off, you like science, you like to stay on slashdot because in your opinion it represents the more "successful" members of society. But then, maybe you're just an arrogant prick, and maybe we're just having fun.
        I think the real problem here, as Mannie taught Mike, is the difference between "Funny," "Not Funny," and "Funny Once." Like much geek humor, it seems that all the humor in the use of the tag on this article come from mindless repetition, and the joke has officially been beaten into the ground.

        Plus, let's face it -- there are articles where the tag is wonderfully appropriate as ironic snark, but this one isn't it. I mean, it's great for articles like this one about mass production of micro fission reactors [slashdot.org] or this one about the proposed future of military robots. [slashdot.org] Sometimes, it's funny when the very proposition of something going wrong is itself funny like with an article on a robot controlled by a monkey's brain. [slashdot.org]

        However, dangers and recklessness involved in this project are next to nil. There's no irony and clever cynicism here. There's just the mindless misapplication of an overdone meme in a manner that makes Slashdot look like a bunch of technology fearing idiots. So yeah. While I don't think it's worth getting so worked up about, it is a stupidly applied tag and a failed attempt at humor.
        • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @08:59PM (#22241424) Journal
          However, dangers and recklessness involved in this project are next to nil.

          So there is absolutely zero danger of such artifical DNA escaping the lab and getting into the environment cause goodness knows what damage? I can accept that this danger will be minimal but you would have to do some convincing to suggest that it is zero. For a start the new base pair were generated by trying many different random combinations until they found one that replicated. Clearly this suggests that they do not know exactly what this random combination will do when added to a cell, particularly since this is there next research project!

          The usual best defence against "what could possibly go wrong" is to say that this already happens in nature so it can't be dangerous. This is the main argument we use against the nay-sayers of the LHC creating a black hole which will swallow the Earth. Cosmic rays striking the upper atmosphere are far more energetic and so if that were a danger we would not be here to discuss it! However the whole point of this experiment is to create something which nature has not done before (to our knowledge).

          So the only argument I can see which is left is that the safe guards in effect to prevent this getting into the environment are so good that the risk is minimal and/or the chance that this new DNA pair creating a dangerous organism are zero. Since nobody knows what this pair will do yet I can't see how you can be certain of the latter (although I accept the risk may be incredibly small) and no containment procedure is fool proof since it involves humans (e.g. foot and mouth virus escape last year from a UK lab).

          So the question we have to ask is whether the value of the research is worth the risk? As a scientist, though not a biologist, I would be inclined to say yes since it seems that this will help you guys understand some of the fundamentals of DNA plus it sounds really cool. Of course I'm a physicist so there may well be some very valid reason I know nothing about as to why there is no danger at all. So the best way to educate me is to explain why there is zero risk. Telling me that I'm stupid for even questioning that something could possibly go wrong, without telling me why I'm stupid, does not inspire confidence!
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Valdrax (32670)

            So there is absolutely zero danger of such artifical DNA escaping the lab and getting into the environment cause goodness knows what damage?
            There's no indication that the new sequences code for any amino acid. Thus there should be no environmental impact unless the new nucleotides are somehow poisonous. Essentially, this is complete junk DNA which is mostly useful for its properties of being easily identifiable as non-biological in origin.
    • by gnick (1211984) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:11PM (#22234984) Homepage

      Do we really only perceive biologists as madmen who want to do evil experients [sic] for the heck of it?
      No. But, even though I think that it's enormously cool what these folks did, the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag seems appropriate here. While reading TFA, I couldn't help but think: "Scientists have created an unnatural but successfully replicating new genetic code? Did we just re-invent cancer?" Followed soon after by: "Cool!"
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DaveV1.0 (203135)
        In other words, you are buying into to all the anti-science propaganda.

        And, unfortunately, probably read/watch a lot of science fiction. Am I the only person who has noticed that in most science fiction, scientists are often the cause of the disaster, and sometimes they are not the cure, but rather some random person?

        More and more, I see SF as putting out the message "scientists as a group are stupid, shortsighted, and dangerous, only the lone researcher who disagrees with the group knows what is actually g
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ResidntGeek (772730)

          More and more, I see SF as putting out the message "scientists as a group are stupid, shortsighted, and dangerous, only the lone researcher who disagrees with the group knows what is actually going on, and the pitchfork/torch wielding crowd have the right idea on how to fix things."

          Problem is, scientists are people, and that description does describe most people. Science is easy to romanticize; heroically smart men and women using the powers of reason and rigorously-designed experimentation and detailed ma

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by vtscott (1089271)
          I think that calling it "anti-science propaganda" is a stretch. While I'm all for scientific advances and think that this is a pretty cool one, it's prudent to keep in mind that there are potential consequences (intended or unintended) to possessing certain technologies. It would be just as shortsighted to blindly exploit a new technology without regarding the consequences as it would be to ignore a potentially great technology out of fear. Be mad at the people who would actually try to stop this researc
        • by AJWM (19027) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @01:20PM (#22235862) Homepage
          More and more, I see SF as putting out the message "scientists as a group are stupid, shortsighted, and dangerous, only the lone researcher who disagrees with the group knows what is actually going on, and the pitchfork/torch wielding crowd have the right idea on how to fix things."

          That's pretty much been the case with Hollywood SF since the 1950s. Conspiracy theorists might surmise that it really was due to communist infiltration and that it was all a Soviet plot to undermine US science, but more likely it was (and is) just a combination of the scientifically illiterates' response to something they don't understand (consider Clarke's Third Law plus equating magic to witchcraft), and the fact that the Frankenstein myth has always sold well.

          As for written SF, I'm not sure that exists anymore -- I was just looking at a flyer for the upcoming MileHiCon (Denver in October, a few months after the WorldCon), and of the three author guests of honor, none of them write what I'd call science fiction. It's all magic, paranormal and shapeshifters. But that seems to be where the money is; look how "Buffy" and "Angel" did compared to "Firefly".

          Now, all you kids get off my lawn!
        • by riseoftheindividual (1214958) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @01:45PM (#22236196) Homepage
          In other words, you are buying into to all the anti-science propaganda.

          No, in other words he's being a rational open minded person who isn't treating science like a holy can't-do-no-wrong religion. The second you stop questioning the possible ramifications of any given advance, is the second you become an unthinking true believer.

          Wouldn't it have been nice if someone way back would have stopped and asked "what could possibly go wrong" when they began exploiting crude oil? Or we could go down the list of medications that have been pulled off the market by the FDA because "what could possibly go wrong" wasn't a question seriously considered early on.

          Few people here who tag it are even being serious in the first place, but in humor there is terrible truth and the terrible truth is, we have to be very careful how we proceed with new developments and technologies and it needs to be done with the recognition that they can and often have had unintended consequences. That's not anti-science or irrational, that's being a realist.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Your.Master (1088569)
            > Wouldn't it have been nice if someone way back would have stopped and asked "what could possibly go wrong" when they began exploiting crude oil?

            a) I *guarantee* you somebody thought of the consequences. Some but not all of which were foreseeable.
            b) If we had decided entirely against it way back when, I'm not at all convinced the world wouldn't be a far shittier place today. We need to wean ourselves from the addiction now, but it gave us a jumpstart. We wouldn't have used it otherwise.

            > Or we c
      • I couldn't help but think: "Scientists have created an unnatural but successfully replicating new genetic code? Did we just re-invent cancer?" Followed soon after by: "Cool!"

        Mine was more "Cool!", followed by "Oh, shit, we're all going to die."

      • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @01:16PM (#22235808)
        Here it does apply, but it's stuck on pretty much any story remotely involving science...

        "Scientists Create Artificial DNA Bases With Unknown Properties" - whatcouldpossiblygowrong
        "Ultra-Durable Ceramic Invented" - whatcouldpossiblygowrong
        "New Discovery Makes X-Rays Safer" - whatcouldpossiblygowrong
        "Groundbreaking New Image Processing Algorithm Makes Next-Gen GPUs Much Faster" - whatcouldpossiblygowrong
        "Scientist Discovers That Shakespeare Had Tourette's" - whatcouldpossiblygowrong
        "US Science Funding To Increase By 20%" - whatcouldpossiblygowrong
        "[FAMOUS SCIENTIST] Dead At 71" - whatcouldpossiblygowrong
        "Where Have Computer Linguistics Come Since The Seventies?" - whatcouldpossiblygowrong
        "The Ten Greatest Discoveries Of Astrophysics" - whatcouldpossiblygowrong


        If the software behind Slashdot automatically translated the tag "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" into "science" I'm pretty sure that the quality and applicability of the tag would not decrease in the slightest.
    • Do we really only perceive biologists as madmen who want to do evil experiments for the heck of it? I've seen this trend spiral out of control, and frankly, I am ASHAMED.

      Well, as other posters have noted, the tag is being used more for its humor value than anything else. However, western civilization has long had an ambivalent relationship with science. If you go back as far as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, you can see the general theme of scientists learning things that 'man was never meant to know', and
    • I always thought it highlighted the fact that we, as living organisms, are subject to the effects of these techniques and that we should exercise caution and discretion in applying them to human biology.

      There's also an unprecedented level of malicious potential if such developments fall into the wrong hands.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Why is it that every single article that references any scientific development in the fields of genetics or molecular biology gets the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag on Slashdot?

      Because here on /. we know for sure that manipulating firmware is generally bad idea?
    • by jgarra23 (1109651)

      Slashdot members tend to represent the more educated and successful members to begin with

      Which ones have you been talking to? I'd like to know. It can't be the ones who seem to have scripts to mod everything as flamebait or troll...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by AKAImBatman (238306)

      Have we really become such fat lazy luddites that we will reject anything we do not understand, on the basis of an infinitesmally-small risk to our (relatively) decadent and luxurious life?

      That's a great plan! What could possibly go wrong?

      (Ow! Ow! Ow! I'm just kidding! Ow!)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cyphercell (843398)

      Do we really only perceive biologists as madmen who want to do evil experiments for the heck of it?

      My sister's a microbiologist and I like to say that, Yes, they are all madmen (and women) that want to do evil experiments. (please don't tell her I said that, puhleaze!)

    • by mikael (484)
      Trying doing the same thing to your network admin who maintains the corporate IT network; "Hey, I've found this really neat improvement to the performance of your network - if you just change these bytes in the boot images for the routers, performance is doubled. I don't know what they do, but it seems to speed things up."
    • by CODiNE (27417)
      Perhaps the "Killer Bee", pesticide spraying on communities, handling uranium, injecting plutonium, etc...

      have caused some to feel that scientists rush into new discoveries and are not being completely honest when they proclaim them "Perfectly safe!" Plus the continuing trend to announce huge world-changing discoveries with the nonchalant expectation that it'll soon be packaged and sold real soon. It seems the rush for profit and fame have crippled the scientific QA department.

      I think the tag is a bit over
    • by debrain (29228)
      Didn't we just conclude that engineers are more likely to be terrorists [slashdot.org]?
    • In a word ... Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:50PM (#22235450) Journal
      Biologists aren't evil per say, but they will do almost anything for a grant;) Also keep in mind Risks can only be know with a large sample base. We don't know what the effect any drug is going to be on humans until we test it on statistically large enough groups. The same applies with these type of experiments. The tag is, for me just a reminder that we need to make sure that the proper ethical guidelines are followed and enough experimentation has been done to ensure that we have not invented a new courage for humans or organisms that we care about.

      To put it in terms more slashdotters will understand: you don't add new code to a production system with out figuring out ahead of time what could possibly go wrong.
    • Why is it that every single article that references any scientific development in the fields of genetics or molecular biology gets the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag on Slashdot?


      Are you nuts? Do you get even a tenth of the ramifications of this? I'm all for progress and research and knowledge, but I just saw the headline, and immediately thought, "if there was EVER an article that deserved the 'whatcouldpossiblygowrong' tag, this is it."
    • by rrkap (634128)

      Why is it that every single article that references any scientific development in the fields of genetics or molecular biology gets the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag on Slashdot? What does this say about our society, since Slashdot members tend to represent the more educated and successful members to begin with? Have we really become such fat lazy luddites that we will reject anything we do not understand, on the basis of an infinitesmally-small risk to our (relatively) decadent and luxurious life?

      The th

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Genus Marmota (59217)

      Do we really only perceive biologists as madmen who want to do evil experients for the heck of it?

      As someone working in the field, I say "no." They're weirdos and nutballs quite similar to the geeks that post on Slashdot, except that they frequently work with wet stuff and usually have more formal training.

      My paranoia (and I own it as paranoia) is not that some mad scientist will do evil experiments. It's that perfectly "normal" and "rational" citizens running a large corporation will fsck up the planet by using this kind of technology in a stupid way on an industrial scale. By, say, monocropping

    • by rickb928 (945187)
      Gee, um, lemme think...

      - Um, maybe that DNA that isn't seen in Nature isn't see for a reason? Like the last time it showed up, it killed everything else, and then went extinct to seal the deal?

      - Um, like maybe DNA that doesn't show up in Nature is un-natural, and doesn't really work?

      - Um, like DNA that doesn't show up in Nature is so dysfunctional that it doesn't last.

      I like door number three, where it will just fade away. But we won't get to choose the door. Reality will choose the door.

      I'm not at all i
      • by ChromaticDragon (1034458) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:25PM (#22237462)
        Evolution isn't a "let's try every possibility and see what works and what doesn't" sort of thing. It seems rather likely that once things get going down one pathway of evolution that we don't back up to try other possibilities for optimal performance. Indeed, we need to remember that what steers evolution at any given point in time is the current environment (selective pressures) as much as anything. And this itself is constantly changing.

        The choice/selection of the four "natural" (five if you count U) bases for RNA/DNA was made so incredibly long ago, it doesn't seem clear that the other possibilities are being or have been tried or selected in any sort of way. So your "um's" don't seem to be appropriate, at all. It's not clear that these base pairs ever "showed up" before at all once life got going using "natural" RNA/DNA.

        These aren't new genes were discussing here as much as getting to play with a new library of functions. That is, they're not creating new words as much as expanding the alphabet. And it's not just life so much here that they're pursuing. There are other uses of DNA these days than creating new life. These other applications are discussed in the fine article.

        Lastly, the only way to learn is to experiment. Science doesn't prove as much as it disproves. You can theorize all you want, but experiments are necessary to refute/refine these theories (by disproving/falsifying). This is why your request for proof of the unknown is bizarre. Carried to its final conclusion, your "do nothing because we know nothing" attitude would suffocate almost all progress and learning entirely.

    • by fredrated (639554)
      Wow, you are obviously very intelligent. Could you please explain the methodology you used to assess the risk as "infinitesmally-small"?
    • "since Slashdot members tend to represent the more educated and successful members to begin with?"

      The above statement deserves a +1 funny
    • There is an old saying not to fix what isn't broken.

      There are many subtleties to the natural world which we as humans don't understand. While we uncover more and more every day, we can never know enough to make me comfortable with the idea of significantly altering life on our planet (beyond basic low tech breeding of course).

      For instance, long ago we considered exceedingly pure refined nutrients to be the best for us, but it turns out our bodies actually depend on certain "impurities" to properly absorb th
  • New movie (Score:4, Funny)

    by topherhenk (998915) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:04PM (#22234884)
    They can now finally make the sequel to Gattaca:

    Sagtacy.

  • by contraba55 (1217056) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:06PM (#22234906)
    We don't even fully understand the genome, and we're going to complicate it further.
  • For once, that tag seems appropriate.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mlush (620447)

      For once, that tag seems appropriate.

      Yes what could possibly go wrong? I'm really wracking my brains and I'm having a job

      Since these Bases are not synthesized in the wild there is no chance of the altered DNA getting propagated in somethings genome and since there (presumably) not recognized by tRNA [wikipedia.org] they can't affect translation

    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
      Please explain, in detail, why it is appropriate.
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)
      I'd prefer puritycontrol.
  • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:08PM (#22234946) Homepage Journal
    We know what happens with the 'natural' bases--they indicate which amino acids are selected to produce which proteins.

    I'm curious as to whether this will result in new kinds of proteins, or whether new amino acids will be required to be built, or what other effects might crop up.

    It's interesting, don't get me wrong--but how -practical- is it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hatta (162192)
      Well not very yet. Before they can get these new bases to actually code for anything, they have to design a tRNA that recognizes the new bases. Then they have to make a novel aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase that attaches a new amino acid to the new tRNA that recognises the new codons. As it is, putting this DNA into any sort of organism would do nothing.
    • Any Tool = Practical (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pragma_x (644215)
      The largest ramification I can think of is that using artifical base-pairs for DNA would lead to easier identification of engineered life in "the wild". This could be something as simple as a repeated "NOP" sequence that identifies the part and manufacturuer like a serial number, by way of frequency and sequence of these artifical protiens.

      Things could even go as far as to impose government controls on engineered organisms, forcing such identification mechanisms for forensics purposes. This would be handy
  • I love optimism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aadvancedGIR (959466) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:08PM (#22234950)
    So they manage to build a pair of molecules that can be sucessfully copied when put in a DNA helix, that's something worth publishing in a biochemistery journal, but I don't see how those new molecules could be interpreted by the cell to build new man-designed proteins. Wouldn't it be easier to use man-designed regular DNA sequences that the cell know how to interpret?
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Right now it doesn't help create new proteins because such new molecules would probably code for new amino acids, that may have to be artificially synthesized and injected into the cell.
      • by jefu (53450)

        Why would they have to code for new amino acids? Wouldn't it be just as likely that they'd provide alternate codings for the amino acids already present? Or that they'd be just ignored? Or that they'd stop protein synthesis when encountered? If they reliably coded as errors, it might be convenient to stop expression of proteins that are detrimental, or to stop reproduction in viruses or the like.

    • You're right. The intention here is not to create new proteins, but to tag DNA and possibly create new DNA nanostructures. At the end of the day, mRNAs that are translated to proteins still will only have access to the same set of tRNAs, and therefore, the same 20 amino-acids.

      The article can be found here [acs.org]. [PDF download requires a subscription]

      A more interesting discovery (in my opinion) -- from the Scripps Institute -- was made about ~10-15 years ago (IIRC) by Pete Schultz's [scripps.edu] group. They modified tRN
    • by samkass (174571)
      There are also many non-biological uses for the DNA structure. Scientific American (or maybe one of their offshoots) had an article about DNA computing, DNA structures, etc. I wonder if this could be more interesting from a nano-machine perspective. Self-assembling microscopic machines are fascinating (yes, yes, "whatcouldpossiblygowrong"... welcome to the 21st century).
  • Furries (Score:2, Funny)

    Great, we're one step closer to furries, someone call Lowtax.
  • engineer tougher DNA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smellsofbikes (890263) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:12PM (#22234990) Journal
    This could be really useful in the long-term: if we could substitute replacement codons that work with most of our existing DNA, it's one step to building really tough DNA. Right now, there are a lot of damage mechanisms like adjacent thymines linking [wikipedia.org] resulting from exposure to chemicals or shortwave radiation, and replacement codons engineered to not be suseptible to these could make, say, protracted exposure to radiation outside the Earth's protective atmosphere more viable. Of course, then we'd have to engineer a whole set of enzymes to synthesize those new codons, which is an extremely hard project, but finding things that work as replacement base pairs, now, gives us time to study how they might fail and figure out what the best candidates are.
    • Could this be used to build immunity to viruses? Imagine sequences are inserted into the places on DNA where viruses normally bind. If those sequences are no-ops, or duplicate the function of the sequences they replace, the organism would still be viable, but the viruses would have a hard time replicating.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by smellsofbikes (890263)
        I'm not in this field anymore so bear in mind my knowledge might be very dated.
        Generally speaking, viruses that insert their DNA into eukaryotic DNA don't have a particular place that they do so: they get their DNA into the cell, and it then inserts itself randomly in some bit of exposed DNA. See, eukaryotic DNA is very tightly bound to accessory proteins that protect/maintain it and hold it in some sort of to my knowledge poorly understood large-scale organizational scheme that constitutes a chromosome, s
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:12PM (#22234992) Homepage Journal
    Even if its banned in the US, *other* countries will eventually start experimenting and create a super-race that works 80-hour-weeks without fatigue. Then other countries are going to have to follow to compete, or be left in the dust.
  • Nature? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by flynt (248848) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:14PM (#22235008)
    This is only 'not possible within nature' if you make some weird divide when defining nature between humans and everything else in the world. I realize that in the past this was a common thing to do, especially in many religions. But can someone explain what is 'not natural' about humans? Why are the structures we build in cities any 'less natural' than a bird building a nest?
  • - am sick and tired of that joke.
  • by zymurgyboy (532799) <[zymurgyboy] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:20PM (#22235092)
    U and S! Resulting in a viral spread of democracy throughout the world!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jesus_666 (702802)
      Then they'll come up with E and the EU-based DNA turns up. EU-based DNA does many things right that USA-based DNA doesn't, but for some reason it needs several thousand bases to code even the simplest amino acids.
  • "hey, I wonder where all this grey stuff came fro..."
  • Ok whatever (Score:3, Informative)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:28PM (#22235166) Homepage Journal
    As I don't even understand WTF they've done, I'm gunna go ahead and suggest that this isn't the technology I've been waiting for.

    Problem: it is now possible for people to take the DNA sequence for a nasty virus off the web and send it into a DNA synthesis company, pay the $20,000 and get vials and vials of the virus sent to them in under a month. And next year the price will drop to $10,000.. and the year after it will drop to $5,000.. and the year after it will drop to $2500.. and the year after it will drop to $1250, etc.

    One Solution: tag each strand of DNA that is synthesized with an "batch number" by incorporating a pattern of artificial bases that will be replicated each time the DNA sequence is replicated. So if someone gets a nasty virus synthesized and puts it in the subway or something then you can read the batch number and trace who bought the DNA.

  • Wasn't this in a Discover magazine article a decade ago? I think they also had the chemical layout printed there too for the two matching bases.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:34PM (#22235236) Homepage
    ...sounds like they're making some kind of social progress.
  • Why don't they just add Chemical X? Worked for Dr. Utonium.
  • These two "new bases" are basically nucleoside analogues...which have existed for years. Usually they are used in anti-viral applications. What happens, is that they are similar enough to existing bases to be incorporated into a growing DNA strand, but are different enough to be unreadable. This works to put a monkey wrench in the viral machinery. The article is very vague, but what Im taking from it is that these two new bases are readable, and that with a proper supply, DNA containing these bases can
    • This was the subject of a short story by Greg Egan [netspace.net.au], entitled "The Moat". In it, it is discovered that an unknown group of people are genetically engineering themselves to have different DNA bases, presumably so as to be immune to all viruses. He uses the concept again in his novel Distress.
  • Basically the summary of the article can be boiled down to:

    Scientists: "Yay! We finally crammed a new pair of DNA molecules!"
    Journalist: "What do they do?"
    Scientists: "We don't know, but we're gonna study it! It was really hard to cram that thing in there, it's like hammering a piece of a jigsaw puzzle where it didn't belong. Now we're going to study how it will react and how the surroundings react to it."
    Journalist: "So what will this do for the future?"
    Scientists: "More generally, Romesberg notes that DNA
  • God (Score:3, Funny)

    by PolarBearFire (1176791) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @01:02PM (#22235628)
    If gene sequencing is like programming and intelligence design is real, is God somewhere trying to decipher this new DNA and muttering obscenities under his breath?
  • It's GATTACA with a silent 'P' and 'K'... so like... PGATTACKA I guess.

  • by DigitAl56K (805623) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @01:42PM (#22236156)

    This raises the prospect of engineering life forms with genetic code not possible within nature
    It seems to me that if these life forms are viable, then this genetic code is possible in nature, it simply may not be known to exist.

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