Synthetic biology is progressing rapidly in making “artificial life” that is actual biological life. Previously this has been accomplished with viruses and prokaryotic cells (bacteria) – both of which do not keep their genetic material in chromosomes. Now, for the first time, engineered DNA has been incorporated in small chromosome segments and introduced into eukaryotic yeast cells – with surprisingly good results.
Researchers have equipped yeast cells with semi-synthetic chromosomes. It is the first such achievement in eukaryotic, or complex-celled, organisms, and marks a step towards large-scale genome engineering in these cells.
The team publishes its results today in Nature. The study suggests that the engineered yeast strains are as healthy as natural yeast.
“It appears to be fantastically stable,” says Andy Ellington, a biochemist at The University of Texas at Austin, who was not involved in the work. “At least some of us thought that it would fall flat on its face or would mutate quite readily.”