DNA Day experts answer your questions about synthetic DNA

Above: Image © Alexander van Dijk, Wikimedia Commons

Is it possible to artificially synthesize DNA?

Yes, this is done all the time using a machine called a DNA synthesizer. This involves taking individual A, C, G, T's and ligating the backbones together in a controlled and stepwise process.

- Answer provided by Dr. Paul Gordon

We read an article from Explore Learning called "Scientists create a synthetic genome!" Can you explain more about what it means to have a synthetic genome?

DNA is artificially synthesized by using a machine called a DNA synthesizer. This involves taking individual A, C, G, T's and ligating the backbones together in a controlled and stepwise process..they used machines to create a large piece of DNA that did not exist in nature before. This DNA had a bare minimum of genes encoded in it to provide all a bacteria needs to live and reproduce. This DNA was inserted into a another bacterial cell that had been made "blank" (had its original genome removed).

- Answer provided by Dr. Paul Gordon

What does xna/synthetic DNA mean for the future of genetics research?

Hmm, I wasn't familiar with the term "xna" but just googled it and found an interesting story on it in the Vancouver sun which suggests other self-replicating molecules might exist besides DNA/RNA - the article is in today's vancouver sun, titled: Scientists create 'synthetic DNA' capable of evolution.

- Answer provided by Dr. Robert Hanner

Could synthentic dna be used to create synthetic (artificial) life?

Probably - researchers have synthesized RNA-like molecules that can self replicate in the proper mix of nucleotides, temperature, etc. but is this "life"? Defining life is tricky, for example, viruses need the genetic machinery of a host to replicate - are viruses alive?

- Answer provided by Dr. Robert Hanner

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