from the tinkering-with-molecular-machines dept.
An interesting article in the New York Times ("Scientists Are Starting to Add Letters to Life's Alphabet", by A. Pollack, 24 July 2001) describes attempts by researchers to modify the machinery of living systems to product novel proteins that use amino acids other than the twenty or so standard ones used by terrestrial biology. As the article puts it:
"Scientists are taking the first steps toward creating alternative life forms — organisms that use a genetic code different from the one used by all other creatures on earth . . . Such organisms, bacteria to start with, would have novel chemical units in their DNA and synthetic building blocks in their proteins. Scientists hope that such organisms can be used to study biochemical processes in new ways and to produce new medical or electronic materials that cannot now be made by living things."
Note: Access to the NYT website is free, but may require registration.