By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Biologists have made some pretty amazing progress in the name of science, from creating cloned sheep to making babies in glass tubes. A lot of their work focuses around DNA – the blueprint inside every cell which tells bodies how to grow. DNA is usually found coiled up in a structure known as a chromosome, and now for the first time ever, researchers have created an artificial chromosome for the complex organism called yeast.
While yeast doesn’t sound terribly complex, it is when you’re trying to create biology from scratch! You see, there are two basic types of cells: prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Prokaryotes are “simple” cells – like bacteria – which let their DNA float about freely. On the other hand, eukaryotes keep their DNA neat and tidy inside a nucleus – the cell’s main command center. This, in addition to several other features, make eukaryotic cells more “complex”. Scientists have created artificial chromosomes of super simple organisms in the past, but this is the first time they’ve ever done it for complex life.
In order to create the artificial chromosome, named “synIII”, researchers first used computer software to design the structure. They removed any extra “junk” and made more than 50,000 changes to their experiment. Once they were satisfied with their creation, they spent more than 7 years synthesizing thousands of pieces of DNA until they came up with an artificial chromosome!
The researchers describe the resulting structure as remarkably normal, and when they injected synIII into yeast, the organism functioned very well with the manmade creation. This invention is a major landmark in the field, and the process could be used in the future to make food, medicines, and biofuel.