Synthetic Biology, a relatively new field, is seeking to find out what happened to a bunch of chemicals to make them capable of supporting a metabolism
, replicating, and evolution. A Florida lab is showing some of the most promising advancements in this direction with their AEGIS (Artificially Expanded Genetic Information System) experiment. "AEGIS is not self-sustaining, at least not yet, and with 12 DNA building blocks -- as opposed to the usual four -- there's little chance it will be confused with natural life. Still, Benner is encouraged by the results. 'It's evolving. It's doing what we designed it to do,' said Benner, a biochemist with the Gainesville, Fla.-based Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution. In addition to providing an example of how alien life might be cobbled together, synthetic biology has a broad array of uses on the home front."