Biohazard suits used to handle dangerous microbes hang in a laboratory at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md. Patrick Semansky/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Patrick Semansky/AP

An outbreak of bird flu in India in 2008 prompted authorities to temporarily ban the sale of poultry. Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images

Being able to insert the two man-made letters into DNA, alongside the usual four-letter alphabet, could teach old cells new tricks and lead to better drugs, researchers say. courtesy of Synthorx hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of Synthorx

The research team used yeast chromosome No. 3 as the model for their biochemical stitchery. Pins and white diamonds in the illustration represent "designer changes" not found in the usual No. 3; yellow stretches represent deletions. Lucy Reading-Ikkanda hide caption

itoggle caption Lucy Reading-Ikkanda