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Scientists Re-Code Genome of E. Coli Bacterium

Scientists from Harvard and Yale came together to achieve what was once thought impossible: to fundamentally transform the identity and properties of an organism by re-coding its genome.

According to the study published this month in the journal Science, the scientists successfully developed a new genome for E. coli bacterium. By changing its genetic code, the scientists were able to incorporate non-standard amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which allows for new and useful biological functions.

“This is the first time that a cellular genome has been designed and built in order to change the functioning of that cell,” said George M. Church, a Harvard Medical School professor who co-authored the study. “We did this in a cell that is considered very industrially useful.”

Marc J. Lajoie, a graduate student at HMS, added that the goal was to “create a new language that no natural organism or virus speaks.”

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