We all want six pack abs, super strength, and being able to produce spider webs from our hands while we jump from one building to the other, no? Well maybe it’s just me then and a few scientists. Researchers are now one step closer to creating super human clones via gene editing, a remarkable new field of genetic engineering.
Scientists from Harvard University managed to recode the DNA sequence of E. Coli bacteria. Researchers replaced 62,214 base pairs of DNA, and recreated the DNA from scratch but haven’t been able to revive the bacteria, not yet anyways. This managed to be the first genome to be produced in the lab and opened new doors for genetic engineering, being the most significant and revolutionary finding of the field.
MIT bioengineer Peter Carr, told the journal Science, “With this technique, we could create any kind of life form we wanted, reprogram organisms, and even create synthetic proteins and compounds. It’s not easy, but we can engineer life at profound scales.”
How did they do that, you might ask. They added and removed certain chemical molecules from the DNA, simple right? Here’s what happened actually. DNA is made up of four nucleobases which arrange themselves as base pairs, A and T, C and G. These create one strand of the double helix, known as RNA.
Combination of three base pairs make up the codon for example A-T-C, and C-G-C. there are only 64 possible combinations in this way, hence only 64 codons exist.
Scientists removed 7 of 64 codon types throughout 3,548 genes. Instead of editing the genome one gene at a time, researchers used machines to synthesize whole segments of RNA from scratch, each portion containing several different combinations. They then inserted these segments into the E. coli’s DNA, one at a time, making sure as to not make changes that would destroy the cell.
The researchers have only tested 63% of the recoded genes so far, but remarkably few of the changes have produce adverse or unexpected results.
This would make the cell immune to a virus, as the DNA would be so complex that a virus wouldn’t be able to read it and thus couldn’t inject its DNA, making it impossible for the virus to reproduce and spread, hence, giving birth to superhumans. Perfecting this craft will surely take time and a lot of financial backing though.
There are other more remarkable opportunities with this discovery. Robust synthetic materials, universal antibiotics and organs even. Luckily for the scientists time is on their side, as it will take some time before we get to see superheroes roaming the streets, or should I say flying the skies.