Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageScientists create artificial enzymes

By Tim Sandle     Dec 7, 2014 in Science
London - Researchers have created artificial enzymes in the laboratory. These enzymes are encoded by artificial genetic material and can function as biological catalysts.
Over the past several years, researchers have begun making synthetic genetic polymers they called XNAs. These biological constructs incorporate alternative molecules in place the ribose or deoxyribose portions of RNA and DNA. Previous research has shown that these nucleic acids "can replicate and evolve" just like naturally occurring biological materials.
Simply put, XNAs are synthetic polymers that can carry the same information as DNA, but with a different assemblage of molecules. The "X" in XNA stands for "xeno." Scientists use the xeno prefix to indicate that one of the ingredients typically found in the building blocks that make up RNA and DNA has been replaced by something different from what is found in nature.
Now, the same research group, led by Philipp Holliger of the U.K.’s MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, has used XNAs to encode and produce artificial enzymes. These enzymes function just as well as natural molecules, capable of constructing and breaking down other compounds.
Unveiling the significance of the study, Dr. Holliger told BBC News: "Our work suggests that, in principle, there are a number of possible alternatives to nature’s molecules that will support the catalytic processes required for life. Life’s ‘choice’ of RNA and DNA may just be an accident of prehistoric chemistry."
In terms of practical applications, the synthetic nucleic acid/enzyme system could provide a new way to make human therapeutics. However, perhaps more intriguingly, the research points to the possibility of life forms based on molecules other than DNA.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature. The paper is titled "Catalysts from synthetic genetic polymers."
More about Enzymes, Synthetic, Artificial
More news from