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Hachimoji DNA Creation Could Help Alien Exploration

DNA model

Dr. Millie Georgiadis stands by the equipment that helped map the new DNA model. (Jill Sheridan/IPB News)

An Indiana scientist has helped develop a new type of synthetic DNA, and says it might help astrobiologists think differently about alien life. 

The synthetic DNA is called Hachimoji – in Japanese hachi means eight and moji means letter – a reference to the DNA’s eight-letter structure, more than the normal four.

It was developed with the help of Dr. Millie Georgiadis from the Indiana University School of Medicine. She says the research was funded by NASA and aims to reimagine molecular structure.  

"So rather than limiting your search to what you see on this planet, you can think about other types of molecules that still have the same properties but are not chemically the same," says Georgiadis.  

Hachimoji DNA acts as natural DNA does, to support life through informational building blocks. 

Scientists say it could prove effective for other applications, including diagnosis and drug development.

"Developing new types of molecules to screen for biomarkers on cells, to selectively target things that are on the surface of cells for cancer applications," says Georgiadis. 

The synthetic system is not self-sustaining.

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