Friday, February 24, 2006

Artificial gene design and synthesis

An individual molecule of DNA can be quite large, but it's made up entirely of four different units ("bases") plus a simple chemical backbone to which the bases are attached. DNA normally consists of two such strings of bases twisted together, and genes are just segments of this double-stranded DNA. Typically, a gene contains from less than a hundred to upwards of ten thousand complementary pairs of bases.

Proteins are constructed from different units: 20 particular amino acids (out of a much larger number). The sequence of these amino acids in a protein is determined by the sequence of bases in a corresponding gene. There are some subtleties to this process, but in general it is possible in principle to construct a protein with any desired sequence of amino acids by first constructing an appropriate gene, and then allowing the existing gene transcription process of a cell to build the protein.

Proteins are the main chemical entities that make up cells and control most processes within cells. Now there is Web-based software to construct appropriate genes for making just about any protein one might want.

Web program simplifies artificial gene design
A web-based program that simplifies many tricky steps involved in designing artificial DNA has been released by US microbiologists.

The software suite, called GeneDesign, should make it easier for researchers to modify and study DNA. The cost of gene synthesis is rapidly falling with dozens of companies around the world now offering to create genes to order from the chemical components of DNA.

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