DNA has many practical uses but is mostly used in forensic science and genetics. Now, scientists have developed a new way to utilize the length of genes within DNA that would enable them to build “writing” from small segments of DNA with large numbers of letters. This would allow for more complicated programming and genetic modification without the need to synthesize large libraries of DNA. Lambda DNA is a DNA molecule made from only one gene, and is theoretically possible to create a DNA library from this single gene using synthetic biology. This new technology could be used in many applications such as creating and allowing a biologist to edit DNA without having to synthesize large libraries of DNA.
Lambda Dna was first discovered by a research team led by Dr. Peter Mombaerts at the Francis Crick Institute in London, who managed to create a fully functional bacterial colony with the use of just one gene. The team managed this feat by inserting the target gene into Escherichia coli bacteria, which led to them developing antibiotic resistance because they were able to produce energy from non-existent carbon sources in their environment.
Some scientists are skeptical, arguing this will open up new avenues for abuse because it could make it easier for criminals or terrorists to write code on their behalf. Another concern is that this type of writing could act as a tracking device by revealing information about the people who might be carrying around strands on their clothes or skin.
1. Methodology To Develop Lambda DNA
In the traditional biology system, DNA looks like a ladder of four building blocks or bases: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). These four bases have distinctive shapes that are able to be lined up in a continuous string that is able to form “words” such as “hello”, or “letters” such as an alphabet. This was made possible by the discovery of the ribosome, which is an enzyme used by all living organisms that helps in the creation of proteins from chains of amino acids. In this way, genetic material can be translated into proteins by making use of ribosomes.
The Lambda DNA mimics this process by eliminating the ribosome, and thus removing all of the steps that occur in traditional biology. This new process also eliminates all of the enzymes and other complicated components required for DNA synthesis which would have made it much more difficult to create. This is because a single gene would permit a string of letters to be created from this one gene.
2. Lambda DNA Is Alive… Sort Of
The new development was created by using horizontal poisoning at specific places in a gene, where adjacent A-T pairs are used to form the A-T-C-G triplet that is found in “words” or “letters”. In this unique way, sequences of “words” or “letters” are able to form codes that can be recognized by the other bases. The sequence is then reproduced until a full string is created. Then a second type of bacteria, one that is not resistant to these antibiotics, would be exposed to this DNA, which allows the string of letters to replicate in their DNA.
The bacteria were killed, and all the pieces that were broken off from their bodies floated in the water of the petri dish or tube. This caused the reproduction of all four letters in the DNA of other bacteria because they had no protection from it.
The next step in the research was to learn how to make more of these Lambda DNA strings. The scientists decided that they needed a new set of enzymes, which they were able to develop by synthesizing them. These new enzymes were made by a group at the University of Liverpool, who then used them to make their own Lambda DNA strands that were about as long as human chromosomes (which is about 10 million base pairs). However, these bacteria are not as intelligent or as natural-feeling as E. coli, because they have none of the advanced genetic functions like antibiotic resistance and can’t live outside the lab water containers.
Specialized equipment is required to make use of the Lambda DNA, which may limit their applications in the short term. However, the new technology could have many uses in areas such as synthetic biology. For example, they could be used to help scientists make necessary changes in organisms that have been invaded by invasive species or to modify certain types of crops that have been damaged by disease or contamination. This makes it much easier for us to study and understand these organisms because each gene can be controlled separately.
Some scientists also suggest that these strands could be used for self-replicating robots that are able to make repairs outside space stations or other long-distance space explorations.