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Two graduate students developed a method for the synthesis of DNA, which can be much faster, cheaper and easier for biologists create synthetic DNA sequences.
Now, if you want to create a new gene might be for a tomato plant more bug file or to add a change to your army of supersoldier goats — the process is slow and expensive. Bases, the building blocks of the genetic code, for the added one at a time to a growing DNA strand. The process sometimes fails, and it always runs out of juice once a sequence reaches only 200 bases (a very short piece of code in genetic terms), according to a statement from the researchers.
Want to go longer? Better write lots of different bits of the genetic code and then stitch them all together, even knowing how likely it is that not. The new method, in which the students, published Monday (18 June) in the journal Nature Biotechnology, could eliminate many of those problems. [Genetics by the Numbers: 10 Tantalizing Tales]
The old method for the synthesis of DNA dates back to the 1970s, and it makes use of enzymes, substances that living things produce, to help along the chemical reactions in their body — in order to guide the bases of the DNA in the place. It is a slow, cumbersome process that slows down the genetics labs, even new technologies, such as CRISPR, with a speed up to other parts of the gene-editing process.
This new method, developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, takes a brute force approach: Each enzyme physically binds each new piece of DNA sequence, before they are shorn off the order and disposed of. (In the old process, the same enzyme that was used to just nudge the bases along in the direction of their place in the sequence.) This is a process that can, in principle, endless, without an arbitrary cut-off at 200 bases.
It does, however, make use of much more enzymes than the current technique, the researchers said in the statement. But, fortunately, enzymes are inexpensive. The researchers said they initially had some difficulty convincing other biologists that the idea would work, because the researchers are just not used to using enzymes to directly bind DNA together.
Hack together DNA sequences with the new, brute-force approach would one day become the norm in the genetics labs, one of the researchers said. But the technology is not yet ready. This method is still more likely to have interference than the standard genetic sequencing techniques, and it has not yet reached his top speed yet. Along the line, but the students said that they expect to achieve and surpass current sequencing methods, and maybe one day manage to write a whole new artificial genes ” at night.
Originally published on Live Science.