For as long as life on Earth has existed, all of it has been made up of only four letters. DNA has been written in just those four letters – G, T, C and A – which together create the code that underlies every living thing ever known.

That’s until now. Scientists have announced that they have created living organisms using an expanded genetic code. That could in turn lead to the creation of entirely new lifeforms, using combinations of DNA that couldn’t possible have existed before.

Two researchers created a bacterium that not only uses the four natural bases, but also uses a pair of synthetic ones known as X and Y. In doing so, the researchers say that they have been able to “lay the foundation for achieving the central goal of synthetic biology: the creation of new life forms and functions”.

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