February 1, 2017
(Quartz) – All of life, as we know it, is created from the same four letters: A, T, G, and C. These letters form the basis of DNA, and the way they are laid out in our genetic code is what makes you unique from the trillions of other life forms on Earth. But what if we were to add just two more letters to the mix? Imagine adding two new letters to a language that only has four letters: The possibilities are immense. That’s exactly what biologist Floyd Romesberg at the Scripps Research Institute and his colleagues hoped to test. And in a feat of bioengineering, his team has created new and thriving semisynthetic organisms with DNA consisting of letters A, T, G, and C plus new ones: X and Y.