Rewriting the code of life as simple as find-and-replace function in MS Word

The recent achievement of MIT and Harvard researchers in the field of genetic engineering is akin to the find-and-replace function in word-processing programs we use in our daily lives.

MIT and Harvard researchers have developed technologies that could be used to rewrite the genetic code of a living cell, allowing researchers to make large-scale edits to the cell’s genome (DNA sequence, also called hereditary info sequences, which are key to evolution in living organisims). According to scientists, such a technology could enable them to design cells that build proteins not found in nature, or engineer bacteria that are resistant to any type of viral infection.

DNA is Double helical. Note that it has Thiamine in place of Uracil

RNA is single helix. Note that it has Uracil

The breakthrough, which is published in the July 15 issue of Science, can overwrite specific DNA sequences throughout the genome, similar to the find-and-replace function in word-processing programs.

Using this approach, the researchers can make many number of targeted edits to the genome of a bacteria like E. coli (found in human colon, and helps in food digestion), apparently without disrupting the cells’ useful function.

Understanding How DNA’s code is edited

Inside every cell, the evolutionary component is DNA (Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid) or RNA(Ribonucleic acid). DNA consists of long strings of “letters” that code for specific amino acids. These letters which form the genetic code appear on the basis of a set of rules, by which information encoded in genetic material (DNA or mRNA sequences inside a cell) is translated into proteins (amino acid sequences) by living cells. The code defines how sequences of three nucleotides, hence called codons (A- Adenine, G=Guanine, T=Thiamine, U=Uracil. The codons are in a pair of three, with uracil replaced by thymine in RNA. Plants have RNA). Every organism uses the same genetic code to translate those letters into amino acids, which are then strung together into proteins. And courtesy proteins, All Living organisms, from single cellular ones to Blue whale, evolve in size, complexity and functions.

To help you understand better, the Picture 2, shows a graphic representation of how scientists are replacing a code unit, with one of their objective. Picture 1 shows the structure of a DNA.


It took researchers seven-years to develop this genetic rewriting technology at cell level (all living beings are formed of cells). Initially the scientific community was sckeptical about the research, fearing easy manipulation if in evil hands. --------

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