Life Without DNA

Scientific American describes ten potentially world changing ideas. My favorites: your personal drone and life forms without DNA. On the latter:

DNA is passé. Synthetic biologists have invented an array of new molecules called XNAs that boast all the talents of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA), as well as some special powers. XNAs could allow scientists to safely create life-forms in the laboratory that do not depend on DNA to survive and evolve…

The enzymes enable XNAs to do something no other artificial nucleic acids can do: they evolve. Inside living cells, enzymes called polymerases cut, paste and splice DNA to access the genetic information. Without that interaction, DNA would remain as inert as dusty encyclopedias on a shelf. Holliger reprogrammed natural polymerase enzymes to translate DNA into XNA and back again, establishing a novel system for storing and transmitting genetic information, which is the foundation of evolution. One of the XNAs, HNA (anhydrohexitol nucleic acid), reliably preserved changes to its genetic code and evolved to attach to a protein with increasing precision.

Thanks to Tyler Cowan for the pointer.

Comments (2)

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  1. Jeff says:

    Sounds like science fiction.

  2. Studebaker says:

    This does sound like science fiction. What would happen if corporations were allowed to build artificially-created life forms to run machinery? How about armies? It’s hard to even imaging how this would play out.