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As concerns grow about dangers posed by the emergent field of synthetic biology, a novel discovery threatens to make this “extreme” form of genetic engineering even more risky.  

Since Watson and Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953, it’s been a common assumption that DNA and RNA are the only molecules that can store genetic information and pass it on.  That belief, according to a recent article in Science, may no longer hold.

New Discoveries in Synthetic Biology - XNA

The article’s conclusion is summarized by its title, “Synthetic Genetic Polymers Capable of Heredity and Evolution.” "There is nothing Goldilocks about DNA and RNA," noted Phillip Holliger, a co-leader along with Vitor Pinheiro of the research team who authored the paper. "There is no overwhelming functional imperative for genetic systems or biology to be based on these two nucleic acids." DNA, as one article about the new study puts it, no longer has “reason to feel special.”

Holliger and Pinheiro's team of researchers, based at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK,...