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Synthetic Proteins Designed To Work In Living Cell January 9, 2011

Posted by Metabiological in Science.
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Sythetic Bio’s been on quite a roll lately.  First Craig Venter last year and now this:

The team of researchers created genetic sequences never before seen in nature, and the scientists showed that they can produce substances that sustain life in cells almost as readily as proteins produced by nature’s own toolkit.

“What we have here are molecular machines that function quite well within a living organism even though they were designed from scratch and expressed from artificial genes,” said Michael Hecht, a professor of chemistry at Princeton, who led the research. “This tells us that the molecular parts kit for life need not be limited to parts — genes and proteins — that already exist in nature.”

Currently the new sequences work pretty poorly when compared to the evolved sequences (as would be expected) but the future possibilities this opens up are almost endless.  I could see technology like this being used to find novel treatments for genetic diseases like sickle cell or perhaps for constructing organisms that could be released in the aftermath of an environmental disaster to aid in the clean up.  The construction of the first true synthetic organism (Venter’s is close but doesn’t quite count) may still be decades off but I’ll be keeping my eye on the field on synthetic biology.