The radical possibilities of man-made DNA | Floyd E. Romesberg

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Every cell that's ever lived has been the result of the four-letter genetic alphabet: A, T, C and G -- the basic units of DNA. But now that's changed. In a visionary talk, synthetic biologist Floyd E. Romesberg introduces us to the first living organisms created with six-letter DNA -- the four natural letters plus two new man-made ones, X and Y -- and explores how this breakthrough could challenge our basic understanding of nature's design. Check out more TED Talks: The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design -- plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more. Follow TED on Twitter: Like TED on Facebook: Subscribe to our channel:

Comments from Youtube

Julian Colbert : This has apocalyptic movie plot written all over it

War Jac : So we aren't gonna get to know the student responsible for growing the first of those cells under the necessary conditions? Where is their credit for this?

Tejus Kabadi : Who knew the first X-men would be glowing single celled beings :P

Hazcool45 : Interesting and scary at the same time

SuperAtheist : This is why I'm still subscribed to TED.

logicalempiricist : Enter Jeff Goldblum the chaos theorist in "Jurrasic Park": "Life finds a way." LOL

aSHTEBALA : I think Chemical X is the same one that created the powerpuff girls

Random Schmid : "and then they'll just die" not convinced sir...

Juan Pablo Salas S : We can set all the limits we want to this new technology. However, there will be someone somewhere with the will and the resources to do it. See what just happened in China with the CRISPR babies. Although the “entire” scientific community was willing to respect the obvious limits self imposed, there was a group of people willing to use the technology in an unethical way. Same will happen here. It’s just human nature. New stories will be told. Some of them will be horror stories...

Paul Ramirez : This is the TED that I love. Mind-blowing, thought-provoking topics that make us see the world in a different way.

Jamie Arzola : He needs to take this to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. He needs to be heard.

QuestionMarc : He spoke as though releasing bacteria like these into the ocean to clean up an oil spell could be controlled by controlling their access to chemicals X and Y. This is eerily similar to the Lysene contingency from Jurassic Park where the dinosaurs were engineered to lack the ability to produce the enzyme lusene that they need to live so can only live off the food the handlers provide them which is infused with it. Except the dinosaurs got around that a variety of ways. I think only the carnivores lacked lysene since the herbivores just ate whatever plants were around, and the freed carnivores ate those herbivores and got lysene that way. Now of course that was fiction, but life is adaptable, none faster than bacteria. Did you know there is a species of bacteria today that can only live by consuming nylon? It was discovered in the waste of a Nylon factory in Japan. This species evolved within a fairly short span to require manmade materials to live, similar to x and y. Also we know that various illnesses continue to evolve to evade medicines we make to stop them. It is not that hard to imagine with two additional chemicals in it's DNA to work with that this new bacteria could quickly evolve beyond our control if let loose. If that happens, we may not be able to stop it. For that reason we need to be extremely careful moving forward.

Discover Your Awesomeness : *If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much..*

_____ Ellis : I can understand the reasons why some people might be afraid of this due to the unknown however it's the unknown that might be for the better.....the question I do have is for the starving of the cells, without the food so to speak x and y is there a possibility enter quote: "life finds away"?

kwnyupstate : We will have complete control over our DNA soon enough and will then be able to engineer humanity and improve ourselves at an exponential rate. Mastering control over DNA is the real milestone of any intelligent species.

Quick Fix - Thought Provoking Videos : The only thing I could think of during the video was trying to grow wings. After the last minutes of it, I just can think of growing green glowing wings...

Swizz : Much more research is needed. Every DNA ever has a tendency to mutate with unexpected results. The near term practical implementation for the semi-synthetic organisms would be drug research with molecular based drugs as a result. Not injecting yourself with or releasing into the environment a whole new type of organism with 3 base pair DNA.

hdmat101 : Does that mean I can have a bigger pee pee?

Paul Cadena : Oh fudge, this means there really will be new genders one day maybe.

Kevin B : Wow, that guy just answered a question I asked way back when I was a teen. Why only 5? Answer, that's not the limit!:) I can't see much limit to this technology and so long we don't lose control of some sort of self-replication new life then the applications are endless. Immortality? Yes! Cure to all exporting maladies? Yes! Travel through space? Yes! Evolving to an higher level of conscience? Yes! And I only scrap the barrel here...

José Coutinho : So the countdown for Resident Evil IRL has started...

Feynstein 100 : It only takes *one* of those cells to mutate into a form that can produce the X and Y chemicals itself to change history and evolution forever. There will be no going back after that. Not trying to sound apocalyptic. Just saying. :)

Feynstein 100 : Also, are 5 base pairs the limit or can we make more? I mean, the results upto now clearly point to the latter but idk. 🤔

Andrzej Noyszewski : It is interesting talk. However, we still don't have clue how to design proteins that would fold (and do!) as we want them to fold (and behave). I think we could start thinking about designing new proteins, when we actually know how to design "traditional" proteins :). BTW. Adding two new bases to DNA, is not ADDING new information. Computers are using 0 and 1 and they can store ALL possible information ALL DNA is a whole word can code e.g. human genome can be stored on a single CD (~700Mb). So, now we have human genome codded by 0 and 1. That means there is a LESS information since now we have only 0 and 1 vs. A, T, G, C? Complexity of the "code" is not related to the number of letters (sings?) it was written. 0 and 1 are sufficient to basically store "any" information we want. DNA is a CODE. Now, imagine how many structures can be build from... e.g. bricks? You know, brick is a hard clay, but how many different structures those simple bricks can make.

Capra Ibex : That's totally mind-blowing. 😻

tejas 454 : Damn.... Who else thinks it would be a great movie plot. 🤔

Snowball Effect : That's great, but how much of the useful genome is replaced by X and Y and how do they fit into the 3-letter translation language?

mudgetheexpendable : Good gravy! Make bacteria that can eat radioactive material and crap out oil!

azboy123454321 : Shoutout to future historians citing this video  👍👍

Chad Lupkes : How many other chemicals and bonds in DNA are potentially possible? We've found that life evolved on Earth with 4. We've just identified two more. Could there be a total of 8? 10? 16? 32? How long until we put an Artificial Intelligence to work finding the answer to this, and it comes up with any number of potential DNA and proteins that go far beyond what Earth evolved with. What kind of properties would those life forms have? Could they survive above or below the boiling point of water? Could they use other types of liquids as the fluid in their cells? Could they find a way to generate those base pairs from local materials instead of being dependent on us to provide them? Several other comments below quote Jeff Goldbloom's character in Jurassic Park: "Life finds a way". I think experiments like this should be limited to space stations orbiting Mercury, so we can do something quickly if things get out of control.

AFishBicycle : Damn. This is unreal. I’m amazed.

Frank : When he said that there was no way for synthetic life to spin out of control because of the difference of the constituent chemistry of x and y all I could hear was Jeff Goldblum... “life.. it uhh.. finds a way”.

Peter Parker : I want my tail back.

edutz Duman : And so, The Umbrella Corporation begins :)

Aykut : 3:50 - 3:57 I am curious to see what the future beholds. Given that we dont wake up somewhere worst lol, one of the things i wouldnt mind being able to do after death is to watch the world like a film

Parallax3601 : Lol. If there's one thing christendom tells us, its that we're certainly *not* perfect. This guy might be a good scientist but he has a flawed social perspective.

DrDread : This brings new meaning to "My Science Project."

Rick White : The radical possibility of man-made DNA may be catastrophic.

Tdak1128 : But answer the real question on everybody's mind: "When can I become a genetically engineered Catgirl?"

SuperGroob : Life Finds A Way.... This guy's hubris is astounding.

efferus : I found this speaker rather arrogant, mocking both belief and science to further his own business goals. To play in the sandbox doesn't imply one has achieved the capacity to consider oneself above and beyond it.

Nicholas Trice : 28 Days Later here we come! Hopefully not. Very cool nonetheless.

Ian Stradian : The next level of human evolution will be by our own hands. This could be our genetic revolution or our total destruction. We could cure all forms of disease or manufacture our own extinction. What is scarier than that is the possibility that we will birth a new race, a race of humans who will in every way be our masters. We might be on the verge of creating a master race, some say we already have. Every parent wants the best for their children, the best chance for our offspring to succeed in life. What if you could genetically alter your offspring to be disease resistant, with a healing factor of a super hero, and a life span that might not have an old age. What would you pay to give your children these types of advanced advantages? Has someone already begun raising a generation of human beings who are better in every way than the best and brightest that are living today? What if these “new Humans “ could only mate with another “ new human “? This new race would take over with in a few generations. How would you feel about living in a world where you could never be as good as the children of the elites? Class warfare on a genetic scale. Just think about some small genetics lab in some Eastern European country taking payment for a child designed to exceed all human expectations? Would you want to live in a world where only the ultra wealthy have access to this new technology? By the time that this technology shows its power an entire generation of “ new humans” would have taken over. Meet the new boss, it is not like the old boss.

Infocentro Usmajac : Frankly... Mind boggling. Just imagine the possibilities!!!

Ok man : Hey, what's the name of that organisms I want to google it

Tony Mondola : The EARTH is alive... It is a living organism itself. We still don't consider that "real" life though smh

mysofa isconfortablr : This guy dabbed on evolution and god

RagingBubuli : "We get to tell life When and where to tell that stories..." That sounds like a diabolical plan!

IO TG : From a four letter genetic alphabet in organic human DNA, to a six letter genetic alphabet in semi-synthetic DNA. This is exciting stuff. 👏👏👏