STAT

With a ‘recoded’ bacteria genome made from scratch, scientists give life a new dictionary

Scientists in England report they synthesized living E. coli bacteria in the lab using a different genetic code than nature's.

The bacteria happily eating and reproducing and respiring in little plastic dishes sprinkled with nutrient broth in Jason Chin’s lab outside London look ordinary enough, but they differ in a fundamental way from every other living thing on earth, from fungi and avocados to tulips, robins, and elephants. They use a different genetic code — and yet, these artificial microbes are doing just fine.

In fact, these Escherichia coli have the most extensively “recoded” genome ever created, Chin and his colleagues at England’s Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge reported on Wednesday in Nature. “This is a major milestone,” said Harvard biologist George

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