Synthetic code

less than 1 minute read

The Oscillator’s Christina Agapakis reviews some work in synthetic biology – “Expanding the genetic code”

But what if instead of mutating individual tRNAs, you could make a whole parallel genetic code in a living cell? An awesome paper in this week's Nature makes progress towards this goal, by using directed evolution to design a ribosome that reads four letter codons instead of the normal three. With a four letter code, you could potentially program 256 different amino acids, to create altered proteins or entirely different biological polymers.

This seems like the kind of thing that ought to be encouraged. You know, so synthetic organisms won’t be able to eat us so easily. Of course, that’s what they thought about engineering lysine-deficient dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.