Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

15.12.2017

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit computation within molecular systems designed for applications in health care, advanced materials and nanotechnology.


This is a chemical oscillator.

Image courtesy of Ella Maru Studio and Cody Geary

The findings are published in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Science.

Chemical oscillators have long been studied by engineers and scientists. The researchers who discovered the chemical oscillator that controls the human circadian rhythm --responsible for our bodies' day and night rhythm -- earned the 2017 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Though understanding of chemical oscillators and other biological chemical processes has evolved significantly, scientists do not know enough to control the chemical activities of living cells. This is leading engineers and scientists to turn to synthetic oscillators that work in test tubes rather than in cells.

In the new study, David Soloveichik and his research team in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin show how to program synthetic oscillators and other systems by building DNA molecules that follow specific instructions.

Soloveichik, an assistant professor in the Cockrell School's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, along with Niranjan Srinivas, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology, and the study's co-authors, have successfully constructed a first-of-its-kind chemical oscillator that uses DNA components -- and no proteins, enzymes or other cellular components -- demonstrating that DNA alone is capable of complex behavior.

According to the researchers, their discovery suggests that DNA can be much more than simply a passive molecule used solely to carry genetic information. "DNA can be used in a much more active manner," Soloveichik said. "We can actually make it dance -- with a rhythm, if you will. This suggests that nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) might be doing more than we thought, which can even inform our understanding of the origin of life, since it is commonly thought that early life was based entirely on RNA."

The team's new synthetic oscillator could one day be used in synthetic biology or in completely artificial cells, ensuring that certain processes happen in order. But oscillation is just one example of sophisticated molecular behavior. Looking beyond oscillators, this work opens the door for engineers to create more sophisticated molecular machines out of DNA. Depending on how the molecular machines are programmed, different behaviors could be generated, such as communication and signal processing, problem-solving and decision-making, control of motion, etc. -- the kind of circuit computation generally attributed only to electronic circuits.

"As engineers, we are very good at building sophisticated electronics, but biology uses complex chemical reactions inside cells to do many of the same kinds of things, like making decisions," Soloveichik said. "Eventually, we want to be able to interact with the chemical circuits of a cell, or fix malfunctioning circuits or even reprogram them for greater control. But in the near term, our DNA circuits could be used to program the behavior of cell-free chemical systems that synthesize complex molecules, diagnose complex chemical signatures and respond to their environments."

The team developed their new oscillator by building DNA molecules that have a specific programming language, producing a repeatable workflow that can generate other complex temporal patterns and respond to input chemical signals. They compiled their language down to precise interactions -- a standard practice in the field of electronics but completely novel in biochemistry.

The team's research was conducted as part of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Molecular Programming Project, which launched in 2008 as a faculty collaboration to develop molecular programming into a sophisticated, user-friendly and widely used technology for creating nanoscale devices and systems.

###

Funding for the UT Austin team's work was provided by the NSF, the Office of Naval Research, the National Institutes of Health and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Video: Programming a Chemical Oscillator

https://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/158680.php

Media Contact

Adrienne Lee
adriennelee@austin.utexas.edu
512-471-7541

 @UTAustin

http://www.utexas.edu 

Adrienne Lee | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Varied Menu
25.03.2019 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Key evidence associating hydrophobicity with effective acid catalysis
25.03.2019 | Tokyo Metropolitan University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Laser processing is a matter for the head – LZH at the Hannover Messe 2019

25.03.2019 | Trade Fair News

A Varied Menu

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

‘Time Machine’ heralds new era

25.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>