Scientists recently created a life form – using a living bacteria as a starting point – with two extra letters in the DNA alphabet. The DNA of all living creatures on earth is made up of four such letters – the nucleotides A, C, G and T. They pair up – A with T and C with G – to form DNA “words” that direct protein construction and the development and maintenance of every living organism. These scientists added two synthetic nucleotides thus adding two new letters to the genetic code. They note that this opens up the possibility of creating new DNA-based “nanomaterials and proteins with exotic abilities.”
This discovery may be the hidden sleeper of recent scientific developments. When one considers that all of life as we know it – and which we have not even yet discovered all the forms – is built up of long strings of two-letter genetic words, adding a new letter – and why stop there – could open up vast vistas of new products and even new life forms. It may give brand new meaning to “genetically modified.” Cultures that grow rather than construct their technology is a common motif in science fiction. There may be careers out there for those who can write genetic code as we now write computer code.