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XNA breakthrough

January 2015

Artificial enzymes, which could help create therapeutic drugs for humans, have been created in a laboratory in the UK.

According to a report in scientific journal Nature, the UK Medical Research Council team was able to build the enzymes out of artificial genetic material made in their laboratory.

The team claims that the synthetic enzymes functioned just as well as real ones and not only could provide clues about the building blocks of life, but could help provide treatments for people.

Quoted in Nature, Professor Paul Fremont of Imperial College London, said, ‘There could be therapeutic strategies downstream, if we can start to mimic nature and develop synthetic variants’.

Work on the project started a couple of years ago, when Dr Philipp Holliger and his team created synthetic versions of DNA and its chemical cousin RNA, which are molecules that scientists found to carry the basic genetic code of life.

Using these artificial versions — called XNAs — as building blocks, the researchers attempted to create synthetic enzymes, which are substances that help catalyse many biological processes, such as the digestion of food.



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