The first use for the bases could be in DNA bar codes. Because nature can't alter codes made entirely of alpha and beta, these super-specific labels could be used to track products on their journey from the factory to the cash register. Romesberg envisions, a decade out, manipulating the genetic code in bacteria to assemble better drugs or even man-made proteins. (So far, the bases work only in bacteria, so human augmentation is off the table.) Or alpha and beta could help construct nano-machines to be used for drug delivery. "This is like jumping from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age," Romesberg says. "It takes time to figure out how best to use metal."