Genetic inspiration could show the way to revolutionise information technology

Jun 28, 2010

( -- Chemists at the University of Reading have created a synthetic form of DNA that could transform how digital information is processed and stored.

Just as the information in a book is made up of a linear sequence of letters, so the information needed for all living things to function and reproduce is embodied in a linear sequence of chemical units. These make up the chains of and RNA, where an enormous amount of information (the 'genome') is stored in a very small space to direct the molecular processes of life.

A new paper, which appears in Nature Chemistry on June 27, shows for the first time that many of the features of biological can be reproduced in chains.

The Reading team, led by Howard Colquhoun, Professor of Materials Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry, has designed and synthesised short sequences of a synthetic information-bearing polymer.

In the long term, researchers believe this could revolutionise the future of digital information. Synthetic polymer systems could allow information densities several million times higher than current systems.

Crucial to the work is the creation of tweezer-shaped molecules that pick out information along a chain. The two arms of the tweezer 'feel' the different sequences available and then clamp on to the chain at the precise sequence where the and tweezer structure are most complementary.

Several tweezer molecules can bind next to one another on the polymer chain, allowing them to 'read' and translate extended, long-range polymer-sequence information. Most notable is that different types of tweezer molecules start reading at different positions on the chain. This selectivity means different types of information can be read from the same sequence which increases the amount of information available.

Professor Colquhoun said: "This type of process is paralleled in the processing of . In the future, we plan to develop methods for writing new information into the with the long-term aim of developing wholly synthetic information technology, working at the molecular level."

Explore further: Scientists identify tissue-degrading enzyme in white-nose syndrome

Related Stories

Single polymer chains as molecular wires

Feb 27, 2009

The research team of Leonhard Grill at Freie Universität Berlin - in collaboration with the synthetic chemistry group of Stefan Hecht from Humboldt University of Berlin and the theoretical physics group of Christian ...

A molecular ripcord for chemical reactions

Apr 06, 2009

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (the Netherlands) have developed an entirely new method for starting chemical reactions. For the first time they used mechanical forces to control catalytic ...

Undercover Tactics

May 10, 2005

Soft shell, hard core: nanotubes made of cyclic peptides with a synthetic polymer coating Ever since the discovery of carbon nanotubes in the early 1990s, scientists and engineers have been fascinated by the possibilities ...

Recommended for you

Video: Why are avocados so awesome?

14 hours ago

Whether they're in a big bowl of guacamole for your Cinco de Mayo festivities or scooped on top of your salad, avocados enjoy a special place in our hearts and stomachs. On top of being tasty, avocados are ...

Study describes revolutionary method of making RNAs

14 hours ago

A biochemist from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is a co-author on a paper in Nature that describes a new, more efficient method of making ribonucleic acids (RNAs).

For batteries, one material does it all

20 hours ago

Engineers at the University of Maryland have created a battery that is made entirely out of one material, which can both move electricity and store it.

Wood-polymer composite furniture with low flammability

21 hours ago

Wood is a popular material in interior design, but its water absorbency limits its use in bathrooms, where natural wood easily becomes discolored or moldy. Fraunhofer scientists and partners have developed ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 28, 2010
yet another beat-up.
No talk about the practicalities such as the speed of data writing let alone retrieval in such a system...
not rated yet Jun 29, 2010
Storing and reading information on seems impractical. However, PROCESSSING information is where we find the added value. Just as quantum computing allows for different algorithms, dna based computing should be useful for computations not practical for binary techniques. Also, when we start implanting nanoscale devices into our bodies, this dna technology may prove useful for controling biological systems.
not rated yet Jun 30, 2010
The benefits may not be in computing, but data storage instead. Being able to stare large amounts of data in small space for long term.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.