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Protein designed entirely from scratch functions in cells as a life-sustaining catalyst

A dawning field of research, artificial biology, is working toward creating a genuinely new organism. Scientists are designing and building proteins that can fold and mimic the chemical processes that sustain life. Their artificial proteins, encoded by synthetic genes, are approximately 100 amino acids long, using an endlessly varying arrangement of 20 amino acids. Now, a research team has confirmed that at least one of their new proteins can catalyze biological reactions, meaning that a protein designed entirely from scratch functions in cells as a genuine enzyme. Once the team had successfully created artificial proteins for E. coli, they began looking for critical functions that they could disrupt in these simple bacteria. They found four genes that, when removed, would not only render the E. coli inert -- effectively dead -- but which their artificial proteins could then "rescue," or resuscitate. According to one of the researchers, this has significant implications for industry because biotechnology uses enzymes in the production of materials, food, fuel and medicine.

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