September 5th, 2011
Episode 88 of 558 episodes
The world's first animal with an artificial genetic code. In a breakthrough in synthetic biology, Cambridge researchers have succeeded in re-writing a key part of an animal's genetic code. The animal is a tiny, engineered species of laboratory worm, whose cells glow red, thanks to an unnatural amino acid the animals have been reprogrammed to recognise. Most genetic engineering reshuffles genes that already exist in nature. This work adds an extra card to nature's deck - vastly expanding the range of biomolecules researchers can work with. The lead scientist behind the work, Dr Jason Chin, describes the development as "potentially transformational". Last year Dr Chin won the European Molecular Biology Organisation's Gold Medal for his earlier work on reprogramming bacteria and yeast cells. Roland Pease goes to the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge to meet the team behind the breakthrough and learn how it could help researchers illuminate hard problems in life sciences.