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Scientists Engineer Mutant DNA into Living Creatures

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The DNA of all life on Earth is made up of different combination of the same two DNA base pairs — all life, that is, except for the new mutants living in one lab at an institute in Southern California. The project is even being lead by a bald professor. Contrary to what you might be thinking, however, the man’s name is Floyd E. Romesberg, and the work that he’s dedicated his life to just might be the sort that would more attract the attention of Magneto than it would Charles Xavier.

Without diving too far into the specifics of it all, what Professor Romesburg has done in his lab at The Scripps Research Institute is to create third, synthetic base pair of DNA markers. These markers, not found anywhere in nature, were then added to the genetic makeup of an E. coli bacterium. The newly-mutant bacterium can replicate given the proper lab conditions, and be turned on and of by way of a ‘base transporter’ protein made from microalgae.

Romesberg’s endgame is straight out of the comics: a world where humans can design and breed whole new organisms with DNA that we’ve tailored to give us specific results. The Scripps professor imagines a world where everything from nanotechnology to medicines can actually be programmed on the genetic level. Of course, once this new mutant DNA exits the lab, it will move beyond the total control that Romesberg exerts over it now. At that point, for better or worse, humanity may truly reap what we have sewn. Let’s just hope it’s not a zombie-spawning plague the likes of which nothing in nature can possibly have a resistance to, but we’re reasonably certain that you shouldn’t worry about that. Reasonably.

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