Scientists moved a step closer to synthesizing new life forms in the laboratory when it was shown that artificial genetic material called XNA can be replicated in the test tube, much like real DNA.

Researchers at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Britain demonstrated for the first time a way to extract information from the artificial genetic molecules and mass produce copies of them. The finding, published yesterday in the journal Science, is that DNA and its sister molecule RNA may not be the only chemical structures on which a living unit can be based.

"Life is based on this amazing ability of DNA and RNA to store and propagate information," said Philipp Holliger, a molecular biologist and senior author of the study. "We have shown that the basic functions of DNA and RNA can be recapitulated" with new artificial molecules.

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The discovery could create a new platform for devising targeted drugs to treat diseases.

-- Bloomberg News