A team at the University of Cambridge recently used CRISPR to replace over 18,000 codons with synthetic amino acids that don’t exist anywhere in the natural world. The result is a bacteria that’s virtually resistant to all viral infections—because it lacks the normal protein “door handles” that viruses need to infect the cell.
But that’s just the beginning of engineering life’s superpowers. Until now, scientists have only been able to slip one designer amino acid into a living organism. The new work opens the door to hacking multiple existing codons at once, copyediting at least three synthetic amino acids at the same time. And when it’s 3 out of 20, that’s enough to fundamentally rewrite life as it exists on Earth.
We’ve long thought that “liberating a subset of…codons for reassignment could improve the robustness and versatility of genetic-code expansion technology,” wrote Drs. Delilah Jewel and Abhishek Chatterjee at Boston College, who were not involved in the study. “This work elegantly transforms that dream into a reality.”
Read more at SingularityHub.com