Fruit fly hacked

The genetic code of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been cracked, causing the fly to produce proteins that do not occur naturally. The discovery could eventually lead to the creation of new or “improved” life forms in the thriving field of synthetic biology.

Alphabet of life
Our genetic code consists of four chemical 'letters': A, G, C and T. A combination of three 'letters' (for example ATA), a codon, stands for an amino acid in a protein (in this case: the amino acid isoleukine) . For enthusiasts: the complete table is available here. There are a total of 4 * 4 * 4 = 64 possible combinations, each representing a particular amino acid (or a stop codon). Incidentally, there are amino acids that are represented by several, even six, codons. There are three letter combinations that stop reading: TAA, TAG, TGA. These are therefore called stop codons. Previous geneticists have already succeeded in translating one of these three stop codons into a synthetic amino acid in a nematode (a roundworm). The roundworms then started to make proteins with the non-naturally occurring amino acids.

For the first time he has succeeded in incorporating artificial amino acids into a healthy fly. Source: Wikimedia Commons / Andre Harwáth

Fruit fly with non-existing amino acids
Jason Chin
 of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge, UK, has now gone a step further to achieve this in fruit flies. A fruit fly is considerably smarter than a worm. The animals can learn and have a primitive brain and some instinctive behaviors. Since an adult fly is the result of a complex interaction between several genes, each of which produces a specific protein or directs other genes, it was questionable whether this would succeed.

Despite this, Chin's group has now succeeded in producing three new amino acids in proteins in the ovary cells of the flies. For this they used genetically modified bacteria as a carrier. The flies even had healthy offspring that also produced the abnormal proteins. Scientifically, this discovery is very useful, because now that specific proteins can be manipulated, biologists have much more possibilities to investigate biochemical processes in detail. If you the chemical structural formula of the synthetic amino acid In the picture to the right, you can see that this is really a bizarrely complicated substance where even the most complicated amino acid, tryptophan, is still simple. If even this monstrosity can be incorporated into the fly without any problems, that opens up possibilities.

Fly with on-off switch
The fact that the flies apparently survive this e-mail tracing in good health opens up opportunities for enterprising tinkerers. For example, you can think of amino acids with radically different chemical properties that do not occur in nature. If you consider that an amino acid consists of an amino group, an acid group, a carbon atom in between and (on the said carbon atom) a residual group of your choice, you can come up with the most bizarre amino acids. Think of light-sensitive amino acids, which switch an enzyme on or off when light shines on it. Very useful if you want to find out whether or not a certain enzyme is involved in a chemical reaction. Or amino acids that form cross-links with each other. With that you could form exotic proteins with bizarre properties. And so, who knows, super flies with special properties. In any case, Chin and his colleagues have succeeded in designing a completely new fly.

Allah's claim broken
With the creation of this artificial fly we come to a salient detail. Somewhere in the Quran, 22:73, it says: O people, a parable is given, listen to it. Surely those whom you worship instead of Allah cannot even create a fly if they all work together for it. And if a fly took something from them, they couldn't take it back. Both the seeker and the sought after are weak. In other words, the Quran claims that only Allah can create flies. Suppose you believe that all scientists working together form a form of god, say the incarnation of Science. This is roughly the mindset of cosmists and transhumanists. Then what they “worship” can do whatever Allah can. I am curious how the imams and other true believers who take the Quran literally are going to get out of here, because this will get them into serious trouble. This is just a taste by the way. When people become immortal, you can really smile.

JW Chin et al., Expanding the genetic code of Drosophila melanogaster, Nature Chemical Biology, DOI: 10.1039 / nchembio.1043 (2012)

6 thoughts on “Fruitvlieg gehackt”

  1. De vers die van de Koran wordt aangehaald heeft niets met het artikel te maken. De Koran vers zegt dat men niet in staat is om een vlieg te scheppen. Onderdelen van een auto veranderen betekent niet dat je de auto hebt gemaakt. Dus geen bestaande vlieg manipuleren, maar zelf vanuit de basic elementen, de atomen dus een  vlieg in elkaar zetten, kan je dit niet dan kan je ook geen vlieg scheppen. En je bent pas echt geloofwaardig als je zelf atomen uit het niets kan toveren, je zorgt dus voor je eigen bouwstenen. Maar goed, zelfs uit de basic bouwstenen heeft tot dusver niemand zelf leven gemaakt. Een eicel manipuleren met bacterien is gebruik maken van leven die je zelf niet gemaakt hebt. Maak die eicel en die bacterien zelf uit atomen en dan praten we misschien verder.
    O mensen, een gelijkenis wordt gegeven, luistert er naar. Voorzeker, degenen die gij in plaats van Allah aanbidt kunnen zelfs geen vlieg scheppen, al zouden zij daar allen toe samenwerken. Koran 22:73

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