A New method to Synthesize DNA is finally here

A New method to Synthesize DNA is finally here

The future of DNA Synthesizing might be extremely bright following the latest technique which is faster, cheaper, and better.

Synthetic Biology has certainly come a long way as we can program different organisms to perform designated tasks these days. Manufacturing Medicines and Decomposition of Plastics are some of the examples. Similarly, Custom DNA Sequences can be established and this process is regarded as a huge revolution in the field of medical discovery. Despite all these achievements, the process of ‘DNA Synthesis’ has not changed much as it is still very slow and unreliable.

The latest technique suggested by the researchers of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California promises to change things forever as scientists will be able to synthesize DNA quickly, accurately, and economically. According to an estimate, the DNA strands produced through this method will be 10 times longer than what we get today with our current procedures.

The graduate students, Daniel Arlow and Sebastian Palluk, at the Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), led this amazing discovery. The CEO of JBEI, Jay Keasling, seems to have liked their work as he praised their efforts by saying,

DNA synthesis is at the core of everything we try to do when we build biology. Sebastian and Dan have created what I think will be the best way to synthesize DNA since [Marvin] Caruthers invented solid-phase DNA synthesis almost 40 years ago. What this means for science is that we can engineer biology much less expensively — and in new ways — than we would have been able to do in the past.”

The traditional process adopted for making DNA strands uses procedures of Organic Chemistry which combines one building block at a time. Almost all the companies and labs around the world that are associated with the field of DNA synthesis are using this technique. The fact that we can produce only 200 bases long strands of DNA is the major disadvantage of the ‘Caruthers Process’. The reason for this is that the chances of a defect in the sequences of a gene increase with its length. This makes it a failure-prone method. Another demerit of this tool is that it consumes a lot of time as shorter sequences are stitched one-by-one to form a longer sequence. Last but not the least, a DNA strand which is 1000 bases long is also considered a small gene for research purposes.

Arlow and Palluk were urged to improve the methods of DNA synthesis because a lot of their precious time was being wasted in establishing DNA sequences that should have been available to them in the first place. Similarly, ordering them from a company was an incredibly expensive proposal. They were not able to give enough time to the actual experiment and this motivated them to solve this long-lasting problem. They started looking for different options and found that there is no better catalyst than natural enzymes. Palluk mentioned that in the following words:

DNA is a huge biomolecule. Nature makes biomolecules using enzymes, and those enzymes are amazingly good at handling DNA and copying DNA. Typically our organic chemistry processes are not anywhere close to the precision that natural enzymes offer.”

If this idea is a complete surprise, you need to update your information as scientists are toiling for years to make a new DNA through an enzyme but all the efforts have failed to deliver the goods. The researchers decided to use Terminal Deoxynucleotidyl Transferase (TdT) as it writes new DNA from scratch instead of copying it. It is found in the immune system of vertebrates and has the ability to add 200 bases per minute. Arlow mentioned that all the previous efforts went in vain because the focus of researchers was to “dig a hole” in the enzyme. He told the world that it is a tricky thing to do as the activity of the enzyme can be hampered easily during such attempts. He explained the advantages of their method as he said,

Instead of trying to dig a hole in the enzyme, what we do is tether one nucleotide to each TdT enzyme via a cleavable linker. That way, after extending a DNA molecule using its tethered nucleotide, the enzyme has no other nucleotides available to add, so it stops. A key advantage of this approach is that the backbone of the DNA — the part that actually does the chemical reaction — is just like natural DNA, so we can try to get the full speed out of the enzyme.”

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