March 24, 2009

New type of DNA design is created

A U.S. scientist and his colleagues have described the design of a new type of DNA with 12 chemical letters instead of the usual four.

Researchers, led by Steven Benner of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, Fla., said their artificial genetic system already is helping to usher in the era of personalized medicine.

The scientists said their research might also shed light on how life arose on Earth, by producing a self-sustaining molecule capable of Darwinian evolution and reproduction -- much like one that many scientists suggest arose at the dawn of life on Earth nearly four billion years ago.

Researchers say they are rewriting the rulebook that Nobel laureates James Watson and Francis Crick started when they described DNA's structure in 1953. Watson and Crick established the four chemical letters of DNA: A, T, C and G.

This is a man on the moon goal, said Benner. It has dragged us kicking and screaming into uncharted territory. But we've learned all sorts of reasons about how the Watson and Crick rules don't enable technology to do useful things like highly parallel amplification of DNA or highly parallel diagnosis of human diseases.

The research was presented Monday in Salt Lake City during the 237th national meeting of the American Chemical Society.