BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Scientists at Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore have successfully created six artificial yeast chromosomes. This puts them only a few chromosomes away from creating a fully synthetic genome.
The scientists put the artificial chromosomes that they created back into the yeast cells. They used normal letters, or base pairs, from the yeast DNA. However, they made a few changes in the sequence that differentiated the chromosomes from normal ones.
On March 9th, they published their findings in the journal Science in seven individual papers collected under the name “Unraveling the Human Genome: 6 Molecular Milestones”.
The findings are important because the newly created chromosomes could be helpful in finding the answers to several scientific questions, such as the purpose of those parts of DNA which do not code for genes.
Also, the co-author of the study Joel Bader, bioinformatics professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that they might use these artificial chromosomes in producing more effective drugs or cancer antibodies.
Geneticist Jef Boeke, together with his team, created the artificial chromosomes or “designer” yeast chromosomes, as the scientists chose to call them. They started the project in 2010 and are still working on it, as they are trying to produce more synthetic chromosomes.
The project they are working on is called Synthetic Yeast 2.0. The first chromosome they created was produced in 2014 and, since then, have created five more. The yeast genome contains a total of 16 chromosomes, so there is still some work to do until they can say they have created an artificial genome.
The artificial chromosomes created contain around 30 percent of the synthetic genetic material that is required to create an entirely new genome. Yet, the research team is optimistic about their progress and are aiming quite high.
They declare that, by the end of this year, they will have all the 16 yeast chromosomes produced synthetically. Boeke revealed that quite a lot of them are already completed, but they need to undergo some testing and debugging before they can enter the characterization phase.
This phase might take around a year, so there is actually more time to wait until they get a fully functional artificial genome. However, the team has a lot of initiative. They consider this only the beginning of more research on artificial genetic material.
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