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Biotech United Kingdom Science

Scientists Modify Organism With Artificial Amino Acid 149

Posted by timothy
from the warm-glow-of-the-worms dept.
IndigoDarkwolf writes "The Beeb reports that biologists Sebastian Greiss and Jason Chin have genetically modified a multicellular organism (Caenorhabditis elegans, a tiny worm) to combine an amino acid not found in nature into a custom-built protein. The protein created by their genetically-modified worm contained a dye which glows when exposed to UV light. While previous work showed that genetic modification could incorporate non-natural amino acids into custom proteins for single-celled organisms, this is the first time an entire animal has been modified."
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Scientists Modify Organism With Artificial Amino Acid

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  • by ideonexus (1257332) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @07:33PM (#37064220) Homepage Journal

    So far in the Genetically Modified Foods debate, I've been arguing that, since the genes spliced into GMOs are genes that already exist in nature, GMOs really aren't the nightmarish cancer-causing foodstuffs people make them out to be and that GM foods are the only way we're going to support a population of 7 billion people on this planet just as nitrogen-fixing fertilizer caused a green revolution that allows us to support our current population size.

    So what happens when we start splicing genes into organisms that don't exist in nature? When companies start wanting to work this stuff into our food, and the FDA and courts roll over to allow it unquestioningly, then I think I might start to side with the anti GM Food people. This could be a second green revolution, but with America gutting its science programs, there will be no one to make sure this stuff doesn't have horrible health repercussions.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @07:41PM (#37064278)

    On the other hand, creating engineered novel protiens and biomechanics could open the doors to a whole range of "Very very cool" things.

    Take for instance, slime molds modified to produce long chain carbon nanofiber as they crawl along, or plants able to extract energy from a wider frequency band than is currently possible with photosynthesis (Or even to do so more efficiently.)

    Simply because the substance is artifically engineered does not necessarily mean it is going to cause problems. (and if it does, it will just spark a flash of evolutionary progression in impacted species, much like antibiotics have done for microbes.)

    I can see this being used in foodstuffs, especially where Monsanto is involved, but where I see this really shining is in materials science. Microbes are the most efficient nano-machines in existence. Being able to custom program them to make novel substances and materials is a fundemental leap on technology.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @07:43PM (#37064292)
    They did reprogram the worms. No doubt people have done DIY genetics with these worms before too. It's not as easy as genetic splicing with yeast or ecoli, but enthusiasts could definitely make their own transgenic worms in their garage. If you buy or make your own PCR machine [genomeweb.com], that's probably the biggest barrier right there.

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