Scientists: synthetic amino acids will make GMO safe for nature
The integration of synthetic amino acids that do not exist in nature into the life cycle of genetically modified organisms will help molecular biologists kill two birds with one stone - to make GMOs safe for wildlife and to convince the public of the safety of products based on them, scientists write in articles published in the journal Nature.
“Synthetic biology is gradually creating more and more complex and complex genetically modified organisms that we need in order to feed the world's population, to fight disease and the consequences of oil spills and other man-made disasters. We need to take a more proactive stance on the safe and efficient use of biotechnology, similar to the people who worked to secure the global Internet network in the 90s of the last century, ”says Farren Isaacs of the US Institute of Systems Biology at West -Campus.
Isaacs and his colleague George Church from Harvard University have been working for several years to grow various kinds of synthetic organisms whose DNA or proteins contain components that do not exist in nature and tools for their creation, such as the mass genome editing system. MAGE / CAGE.
In October 2013, they managed to make a fundamental breakthrough in synthetic biology - they were able to “rewrite” the E. coli (Escherichia coli) genome, thus, one of the genetic “stop signals” forcing the cell to complete protein assembly began to encode an amino acid that does not exist in nature. Thanks to this change, the microbe not only learned to collect a number of molecules, which simply do not have analogues in a living environment, but also acquired immunity to the virus, whose DNA contains this signal.
The successful completion of this experiment made Church and Isaacs think about what happens if a similar microorganism, alga, plant or animal whose body is incomprehensible and invulnerable to most natural enemies, escapes from the laboratory and begins to spread around the environment? Such incidents can lead to extinction of species, environmental disasters and serious problems for human health.
“If you develop a chemical that can explode, you add stabilizers to it. If someone assembles cars, they have to put seat belts and airbags on them, ”Church gives an analogy.
According to him, this potential medical and environmental problem can be solved using the same artificial amino acids. As the scientists explain, the absence of these compounds in nature is a double-edged trait - it not only protects genetically modified organisms from viruses, but also prevents them from living and multiplying outside the laboratory if these molecules are continuously consumed in their vital activity.
Guided by this idea, biologists modified several key bacterial genes in such a way that the proteins they encode contained non-standard amino acid biphenylalanine. The bacterium itself cannot collect molecules of this compound, due to which the absence of its molecules in the nutrient medium quickly leads to the death of E. coli.
As the scientists say, during the experiments, they grew about a trillion microbes, none of which could not survive two weeks after the scientists stopped adding the amino acid to their nutrient medium. According to Church, the figure in 10 is thousands of times the norm of the National Institutes of Health of the USA for experiments with genetically modified organisms.
Church and Isaacs consider such microbes to be a new phenomenon for synthetic biology and suggest calling them not GMOs, but GPOs - genetically recoded organisms (eng. Genetically-recoded organism). Unlike GMOs, the escape of such bacteria, plants and animals will be much less dangerous, which will allow, as scientists believe, to use them more widely in industry and science, writes RIA News.
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