24/01/2017 11:48 GMT

Scientists Create The First Stable Organism Using Synthetic DNA

We're entering a brave new world...

All life on Earth is created using the same instruction manual, whether you’re a human, otter or bacteria we all share the same DNA letters G, T, C and A.

Well until now. Scientists have created the first organism that contains two extra letters: X and Y.

Svisio via Getty Images

By creating an organism with an expanded genetic code, this paves the way for a new generation of lab-grown life forms that are synthetically built based on our rules, not on the rules set out by natural evolution.

The breakthrough was made by scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in the US and involved taking a common E. coli bacteria and then adding two new base letters.

This isn’t the first time we’ve edited the genetic code of a bacteria, however one of the biggest problems was seeing our creation survive as it divided.

In the past scientists would add the two new letters and then watch as they slowly disappeared the more the bacteria divided.

PASIEKA via Getty Images

TSRI Professor Floyd Romesberg explains saying: “Your genome isn’t just stable for a day, your genome has to be stable for the scale of your lifetime. If the semisynthetic organism is going to really be an organism, it has to be able to stably maintain that information.”

To accomplish this they did something rather remarkable. They edited the bacteria’s genetic code to recognise X and Y as a part of its original makeup.

Whereas before it was seen as an intruder and slowly eradicated the team were able to re-write its DNA to see the two new bases and then not only embrace them but actually include them in the replication process.

So what does the next generation of semisynthetic life forms mean for us and humanity?

Well for starters you can rest easy about us altering our own DNA, instead this breakthrough could be hugely significant in the world of medicine.

At present the scientists are only able to store information using X and Y, the next step will be turning that information into actual instructions.

Cool Science Photos Of The Decade:

  • 2015
    Martin Le-May
    A baby weasel took the ride of a lifetime on the back of a green woodpecker in Hornchurch Country Park in East London. Photographer Martin Le-May just happened to be lucky enough to capture the moment on March 2, 2015.
  • 2014
    NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)
    Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope assembled a comprehensive picture of the evolving universe -- among the most colorful deep space images ever captured by the 25-year-old telescope. The image was released on June 3, 2014.
  • 2013
    NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins snapped a selfie while completing a spacewalk outside of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station on Dec. 24, 2013.
  • 2012
    Hadoram Shirihai/Tubenoses project
    A rare Mascarene petrel with an egg-shaped bulge in its middle. Photographed in 2012 by researchers near Reunion, an island off the coast of Madagascar, it was said to be the first to show a bird flying with a visible "baby bump."
  • 2011
    Wikimedia Commons:
    In 2011, a female Celebes crested macaque (Macaca nigra) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, decided to pick up British wildlife photographer David Slater's camera and take a selfie.
  • 2010
    NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
    A stunning scanning electron micrograph of a human T lymphocyte (also called a T cell) from the immune system of a healthy donor, taken on May 24, 2010.
  • 2009
    Sung Hoon Kang, Joanna Aizenberg and Boaz Pokroy; Harvard University
    An electron microscope photograph shows self-assembling hair-like polymers around a polystyrene sphere, about two micrometers in diameter. It won first place in the National Science Foundation's 2009 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge.
  • 2008
    Hurricane Ike covers more than half of Cuba. It was taken by the Expedition 17 crew aboard the International Space Station from a vantage point of 220 miles above Earth, on September 9, 2008.
  • 2007
    Gloria Kwon/NIKON Small World
    A close-up look at a double transgenic mouse embryo, just 18.5 days old. The photo won first place in Nikon's 2007 Small World Photomicrography Competition.
  • 2006
    Thierry Legault
    A photo of the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle Atlantis flying between Earth and the sun. The photo was taken from Normandie, France on Sept. 17, 2006.
  • 2005
    Charles Krebs/NIKON Small World
    A portrait of a Muscoid fly (house fly) that won first place in Nikon's 2005 Small World Photomicrography Competition.