In the future unnatural synthetic bacteria, and nature, will be our factories, churning out everything from designer drugs and materials, to new types of synthetic proteins and much more.


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Over the past year or so I’ve seen the development of a wide range of, frankly, really weird stuff, from the development of the world’s first six DNA base pair organisms, which was quickly followed by organisms with eight DNA base pairs, bearing in mind that we humans and every other organism on the planet has only four, all the way through to the world’s first semi-synthetic, and fully synthetic cells that can replicate themselves, and “unnatural” synthetic proteins that have no comparisons anywhere in nature. In short, we are now at the point of being able to create unnatural organisms unlike anything we’ve ever seen before that have completely unnatural properties and abilities that include, for example, being able to turn humans into supercomputers and that’s just the beginning.


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Now, in another breakthrough in the sector researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in the US have announced  in the Journal of the American Chemical Society that have “optimized a semi-synthetic bacteria to efficiently produce proteins containing unnatural amino acids.”

All of Earth’s natural life forms store information using a four letter genetic code consisting of the nucleotides deoxyadenosine (dA), deoxyguanosine (dG), deoxycytidine (dC), and deoxythymidine (dT). Within the DNA double helix, dA pairs with dT, and dG with dC, to form the “rungs” of the DNA ladder. And recently, researchers have made synthetic nucleotides that can pair up with each other.


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When they placed these unnatural nucleotides into genes, bacteria could replicate the DNA and convert the sequences into RNA and then proteins that contained unconventional amino acids. However, bacteria often cannot use these synthetic sequences as efficiently as the natural ones. Therefore, Lingjun Li, Floyd Romesberg and colleagues wanted to optimize the unnatural base pairs to improve protein production.

The researchers tested different combinations of unnatural base pairs in E. coli and observed which ones were replicated most efficiently and produced the highest levels of a protein. Some of the synthetic base pairs had been tested before, whereas others were new variations. The team then used these optimized base pairs to demonstrate, for the first time, a semi-synthetic organism that could make a protein containing multiple unnatural amino acids. And that’s game changing.

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Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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