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A New Method that Could Help Scientists Create Genes ‘Overnight’

Two graduate students have developed a new way of synthesizing DNA. The method does not only promise to be fast and cheap for scientists but also more comfortable for them to create synthetic DNA sequences.

The current process of creating a new gene is both slow and expensive. As such, if one wants to build a new gene, say making a tomato plant more resistant to bugs or adding some modifications to an army of super-soldier goats, the method would take a lot of time and numerous financial resources’. The two researchers say that the building blocks of a genetic code known as bases are usually added to a growing DNA strand. At times, the process fails and often runs out of juice each time a sequence gets to 200 bases.

The only way of making the sequence last longer is by writing numerous and varying bits of genetic codes then stitching them together with the help of enzymes. Enzymes are chemicals produced by living things to assist with the chemical reactions in their bodies. The recently developed method which was published by the students on 18th June 19, 2018, in the Nature Biotechnology Journal promises to eliminate many of these problems.

The method often used for synthesizing DNA was developed in the 1970s. That explains why it is slow and cumbersome and even slows downgenetic labs. However, there are new technologies such as CRISPR which help in speeding up other areas of the gene-editing process.

The new DNA synthesizing method was developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and features a brute force approach. In the process, there is physical binding of the enzymes with every new piece of DNA to the sequence before the bits get shorn off the chain and ultimately discarded. Thus, this is a process that could take forever in principle go on without the common cut-off at 200 bases.

In a statement released by the researchers, the process uses up a lot of enzymes,but the good news is the cost-effectiveness of the proteins. The researchers also indicated that they earlier had problems persuading other biologists about the functionality of the idea because they are not used to the idea of using enzymes to bind the DNA together directly.

The researchers also said that the binding of DNA sequences together using the brute-force approach could in the future be the norm in most genetic labs. The challenge is that the technology is not there yet. That means that the method is prone to failure when compared to the conventional techniques of genetic sequencing.