Enzyme Design

Researchers create synthetic enzymes in the lab, encoded by artificial genetic material.

By | December 3, 2014

FLICKR, KA2RINAOver the past several years, researchers have begun making synthetic genetic polymers they called XNAs, which incorporate alternative molecules in place the ribose or deoxyribose portions of RNA and DNA, and a couple of years ago, Philipp Holliger of the U.K.’s MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and his team showed that these nucleic acids can replicate and evolve just like the real thing. Now, the group has used XNAs to encode and produce artificial enzymes that, once again, function just as well as natural molecules, capable of constructing and breaking down other compounds, according to research published this week (December 1) in Nature.

“Our work suggests that, in principle, there are a number of possible alternatives to nature’s molecules that will support the catalytic processes required for life,” Holliger told BBC News. “Life’s ‘choice’ of RNA and DNA may just be an accident of prehistoric chemistry.”

The research points to the possibility of life forms based on molecules other than DNA, structural biologist Paul Freemont of Imperial College London, told the BBC. “It provokes people to think that what we see on our planet is just one chemical possibility. It’s the pure challenge of the chemistry of life.”

Additionally, Holliger noted, the synthetic nucleic acid/enzyme system could provide a new way to make human therapeutics. Because the XNAs do not exist in nature, they are immune to the enzymes of the body that degrade proteins. “This might make them an attractive candidate for long-lasting treatments that can disrupt disease-related RNAs,” Holliger told the BBC. “And because we can modify chemistry at least to some extent to our hearts’ content, we can make tailor-made enzymes for particular purposes.”

“This work is another nice step towards demonstrating the functional capabilities of XNAs,” Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak of Harvard University told New Scientist.

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Comments

Avatar of: dumbdumb

dumbdumb

Posts: 94

December 4, 2014

Although this research is technically interesting, the claimed potential and benefits are total hype.

The illusion of creating enzymes with improved or new functions, at this stage, are not even scifi. And drugs that would not be degraded by the organism would most likely be toxic.

The hype, largely outweights the value of the work

Popular Now

  1. That Other CRISPR Patent Dispute
    Daily News That Other CRISPR Patent Dispute

    The Broad Institute and Rockefeller University disagree over which scientists should be named as inventors on certain patents involving the gene-editing technology.

  2. How Gaining and Losing Weight Affects the Body
    Daily News How Gaining and Losing Weight Affects the Body

    Millions of measurements from 23 people who consumed extra calories every day for a month reveal changes in proteins, metabolites, and gut microbiota that accompany shifts in body mass.

  3. DOE-Sponsored Oak Ridge National Laboratory to Cut 100 More Jobs
  4. Neurons Use Virus-Like Proteins to Transmit Information
AAAS