DNA is the organic support for genetic information. It is arranged in two parallel columns within the chromosomes. It is made up of base pairs of nucleotides (adenine, cytosine, thymine and guanine), which form the main structural element of DNA. They are molecules composed of a nitrogen base, a pentose sugar and a phosphate groupDNA has been slowly forming along the evolutionary process, and is the basis for the transmission of human hereditary traits.
One ambition of science is to better determine the structure and functioning of DNA, and the possibility of constructing it in the laboratory. This has apparently been achieved recently by a team led by F.E. Romesberg from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who have synthesised a DNA fragment that can be replicated when transferred to bacteria. These authors have managed to introduce a synthetic base pair in the DNA of a bacterium, Escherichia coli, modifying its ability to encode information, and with the potential to replicate (Nature 509; 385-388,2014).The aim of these experiments is to create artificial DNA that can produce new types of proteins. This is the first time that the possibility of developing living organisms with artificial DNA has been demonstrated, thereby increasing the likelihood of expanding their genetic information.
Although this might appear as an isolated study, it is the fruit of more than 10 years of research by Romesberg’s team, who have synthesised and tested more than 300 artificial nucleotides, to determine which would be the most suitable for transfer to bacteria.
In any case, as Dr. Steven Benner has stated (http//www.ffame.org/sbenner.php) “this work is an important step toward creating unnatural proteins within cells”. Nevertheless, we must not forget that these types of experiments may be accompanied by major ethical challenges that would have to be evaluated as scientific advances are made.