Complex synthetic life moves closer with designer yeast genome | Reuters

By Ben Hirschler | LONDON LONDON Scientists have taken a big step toward designing complex forms of life from scratch by constructing five new artificial chromosomes of baker's yeast, representing a third of the micro-organism's genome, or genetic blueprint.The international team used computers to create laboratory-made versions of the threadlike structures that carry genetic code inside cells.Synthesizing genomes may alarm some who see biotechnologists 'playing God' but scientists view it as a logical extension of existing genetic engineering that is already used routinely to make drugs like insulin, as well as genetically modified crops.The international group previously took seven years to build the first yeast chromosome in 2014. The addition of another five demonstrates accelerating progress in the field of synthetic biology, which promises a new era of designer life-forms.New strains of synthetic yeast could be put to work to produce novel medicines, chemicals and biofuels.

Reuters March 10, 2017 02:00:07 IST
Complex synthetic life moves closer with designer yeast genome
| Reuters

Complex synthetic life moves closer with designer yeast genome
 Reuters

By Ben Hirschler
| LONDON

LONDON Scientists have taken a big step toward designing complex forms of life from scratch by constructing five new artificial chromosomes of baker's yeast, representing a third of the micro-organism's genome, or genetic blueprint.The international team used computers to create laboratory-made versions of the threadlike structures that carry genetic code inside cells.Synthesizing genomes may alarm some who see biotechnologists "playing God" but scientists view it as a logical extension of existing genetic engineering that is already used routinely to make drugs like insulin, as well as genetically modified crops.The international group previously took seven years to build the first yeast chromosome in 2014. The addition of another five demonstrates accelerating progress in the field of synthetic biology, which promises a new era of designer life-forms.New strains of synthetic yeast could be put to work to produce novel medicines, chemicals and biofuels. The work also serves as a foundation for a more ambitious project to synthesize a human genome in the next 10 years.

Yeast is surprisingly closely related to humans at the genetic level, sharing 26 percent of its genes with our species, although the human genome is around 250 times larger.While other teams have synthesized bacterial and viral DNA, the Synthetic Yeast Genome Project is the first to do this in a eukaryote, an organism whose cells contain a nucleus, like human cells.Writing in the journal Science on Thursday, scientists from the United States, China, Britain and France involved in the latest work reported that the yeast containing artificial genetic material was fit and healthy, just like normal yeast.

Jef Boeke of New York University's Langone Medical Center, one of the lead researchers, said this adaptability augured well for building a raft of different designer genomes to address unmet needs in medicine and industry."(It) suggests that we can continue to be even bolder in our future designs and make more dramatic changes and really explore the limits of what you can do with a genome to have the yeast do our bidding and make more useful products," he said.

Tom Ellis of Imperial College London said it was "a landmark moment for the world’s biggest synthetic biology project".Genomes are made up of DNA, a sequence of four different chemical building blocks abbreviated as A, T, G, C. Scientists have learnt to manipulate pairings of these chemicals to rewrite genetic code. The natural baker's yeast genome consists of 12 million base pairs but the synthetic version is about 8 percent smaller as scientists have removed some non-coding "junk" DNA. Techniques for synthesizing DNA are improving all the time and costs are falling. Today, the cost of making each base pair of DNA chemicals is around 10 cents, which researchers said would allow the synthesis of whole genomes to become routine. (Editing by Edmund Blair)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.