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For years, we have believed that DNA was made up of four bases – A (adenine), T (thymine), C (cytosine) and G (guanine), but research has shown that it isn’t quite that simple – since then, researchers have found a fifth, a fake fifth, a sixth, and a seventh and eighth base, as well as creating a bacterial genome that uses an artificial base, 5-chlorouracil.

Messenger RNA or mRNA helps translate the coding in DNA into proteins. For years we have thought there were only four bases in RNA, but researchers have found a fifth, made when the body adds a methyl group to adenine. This changes how the proteins are made and could lead to a number of diseases.

The research was published in Cell.

Researchers have made synthetic genetic material, called XNA. This uses six altered bases, made from the existing ‘letters’ in DNA, thymine, adenine, guanine and cytosine (T, A, G and C). The synthetic XNA could replicate and evolve. This could help us learn about how DNA began, and could one day lead to creation of synthetic life, though that is a very long way off.

Our DNA is made of four bases – A (adenine), T (thymine), C (cytosine) and G (guanine). There are around three billion of these bases in the whole human genome.


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