Nanotechnology device to alter DNA sequencing

Published: Monday 15 January 2007

a functional nanotechnology device, called the dna cassette, in an array of dna may now lead to new synthetic fibres, better encryption of dna information, and improved dna-based computation--a method by which units in dna perform parallel functions at the same time. The cassette can also change dna sequences. It functions as a nanoscale assembly line in the array, which can craft new materials by altering sequences.

The cassette contains an arm that can be switched from one side to the other, as the state of the device changes, thus leading to changes in dna structural states.The results, published online on December 8 in Science's website, say that scientists have been able to employ a functional nanotechnology device within a dna array for the first time.

"It is crucial for nanorobotics to be able to insert controllable devices into a particular site within an array, thereby leading to a diversity of structural states," says Nadrian C Seemans, professor of Chemistry at New York University. He also hinted at the possibility of creating more nanoscale assembly lines in which more complex sequencing can be carried out.

Nanorobotics is an emerging field that deals with the controlled manipulation of objects with dimensions on a nanometer-scale. It is concerned with interactions of mostly atomic- and molecular-sized objects. "The success of nanorobotics requires the precise placement and operation of specific nanomechanical devices at particular locations. The structural programmability of dna makes it particularly attractive for nanorobotics," says the paper.

Seeman along with co-author Baoquan Ding developed a framework that contains a binding site--a cassette--that allows insertion of the device into a specific site of a two-dimensional dna array. Changing the cassette's control sequences or insertion sequences would allow the researchers to manipulate the array or insert it at different locations. The researchers added a long arm to the framework so that they could observe the structure undergoing a half-rotation. Visualising the results of their research with atomic force microscopy, they found that the rotary devise was fully functional after the insertion.

The device, developed with New York University Chemistry graduate Shiping Liao, emulates the process by which rna replicas of dna sequences are translated to create protein sequences.

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