Synthetic DNA Breakthrough Offers Hint at Just How Exotic Alien Life Might Be
Scientists have synthesized a molecular system that hints at a possible alternative to DNA-based life.
The NASA-funded research aimed to explore the theoretical foundations of life on other worlds by developing alternative ways to store and transmit genetic information.
Lead by Steven Benner at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Alachua, Florida, the team succeeded in fabricating a DNA alternative with eight nucleotides instead of four.
The researchers named their creation “hachimoji”, which is Japanese for “eight letter”.
“By carefully analyzing the roles of shape, size and structure in hachimoji DNA, this work expands our understanding of the types of molecules that might store information in extraterrestrial life on alien worlds,” said Benner.
The work is an important step towards better understanding what types of life forms could potentially be out there, as well as where we should be looking for them.
In the future, the team may also be able to synthesize other, even more exotic genetic sytems.
“Incorporating a broader understanding of what is possible in our instrument design and mission concepts will result in a more inclusive and, therefore, more effective search for life beyond Earth,” said astrobiologist Mary Voytek.