For billions of years, the history of life has been written with just four letters — A, T, C and G, the labels given to the DNA subunits contained in all organisms. That alphabet has just grown longer, researchers announce, with the creation of a living cell that has two ‘foreign’ DNA building blocks in its genome.
Hailed as a breakthrough by other scientists, the work is a step towards the synthesis of cells able to churn out drugs and other useful molecules. It also raises the possibility that cells could one day be engineered without any of the four DNA bases used by all organisms on Earth.
“What we have now is a living cell that literally stores increased genetic information”, says Floyd Romesberg, a chemical biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who led the 15-year effort. Their research appears online in Nature. (1)
But how can you improve something that you do not even now how it works?
It reminds me of the anecdote…
God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the “beginning.”‘
‘Oh, is that so? Tell me …’ replies God.
‘Well’, says the scientist, ‘we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man.’
‘Well, that’s interesting. Show me.’
So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil.
‘Oh no, no, no …’ interrupts God, ‘Get your own dirt.’
True men are humble.
And stay silent in front of the wisdom of nature…
We have tendency to play with everything like reckless children.
We have the arrogance to call our selves “creators”.
And like children, we will see our sand castles taken away by the sea…