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In the decade or so since the Human Genome Project was completed, synthetic biology has grown rapidly. Impressive advances include the first bacteria to use a chemically-synthesized genome and creation of a synthetic yeast chromosome.
Recently, scientists from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, led by Dr. Philip Hollinger, reported creating the first completely artificial enzymes that are functional. The breakthrough was published in the journal Nature and builds on prior success by the group in creating several artificial nucleotides.
Nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA and RNA, consist of a phosphate group, one of five nitrogenous bases (adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine, or uracil), and a sugar (deoxyribose in DNA and ribose in RNA).
In their previous studies, Dr. Hollinger’s group investigated whether nucleotides that don’t exist in nature (to our knowledge) could function like natural nucleotides. They designed six artificial nucleotides, keeping the phosphate group and one of the five nitrogenous bases, but switching between different sugars or even entirely different molecules.