Self-Replication Process Holds Promise for Production of New Materials (SD)

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Drew Wilson, Oct 14, 2011.

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  1. Drew Wilson

    Drew Wilson AKA IceCube Staff Member Moderator Contributor

    New York University scientists have developed artificial structures that can self-replicate, a process that has the potential to yield new types of materials. In the natural world, self-replication is ubiquitous in all living entities, but artificial self-replication has been elusive. The new discovery is the first steps toward a general process for self-replication of a wide variety of arbitrarily designed seeds. The seeds are made from DNA tile motifs that serve as letters arranged to spell out a particular word. The replication process preserves the letter sequence and the shape of the seed and hence the information required to produce further generations.

    The work, conducted by researchers in NYU's Departments of Chemistry and Physics and its Center for Soft Matter Research, appears in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

    This process holds much promise for the creation of new materials. DNA is a robust functional entity that can organize itself and other molecules into complex structures. More recently DNA has been used to organize inorganic matter, such as metallic particles, as well. The re-creation by the NYU scientists of this type of assembly in a laboratory raises the prospect for the eventual development of self-replicating materials that possess a wide range of patterns and that can perform a variety of functions. The breakthrough the NYU researchers have achieved is the replication of a system that contains complex information. Thus, the replication of this material, like that of DNA in the cell, is not limited to repeating patterns.

    To demonstrate this self-replication process, the NYU scientists created artificial DNA tile motifs -- short, nanometer-scale arrangements of DNA. Each tile serves as a letter -- A or B -- that recognizes and binds to complementary letters A' or B'. In the natural world, the DNA replication process involves complementary matches between bases -- adenine (A) pairs with thymine (T) and guanine (G) pairs with cytosine (C) -- to form its familiar double helix. By contrast, the NYU researchers developed an artificial tile or motif, called BTX (bent triple helix molecules containing three DNA double helices), with each BTX molecule composed of 10 DNA strands. Unlike DNA, the BTX code is not limited to four letters -- in principle, it can contain quadrillions of different letters and tiles that pair using the complementarity of four DNA single strands, or "sticky ends," on each tile, to form a six-helix bundle.

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