Structural Biochemistry/Nucleic Acid/DNA of the Future

DNA, deoxyribose nucleic acid, holds all of the instructions for the synthesis of amino acids in the human body and its genes are passed on from parent to offspring. In addition to that, DNA, in the future, could also be used in electronic devices to help it work faster or fit into tiny spaces that today’s large machines that no other equipment can fit into. The new DNA-based machines will use less power and less heat than current equipment. DNA’s unique properties – its size, structure and replication abilities – may allow it to reign superior to materials used to run electronic devices today.

DNA Electrical Mini Wires

DNA has a unique shape known as a double helix, in which the nucleotides of one strand of DNA twist together with its complementary strand. When the nitrogenous bases of the two strands come together, they connect to form a ladder. While the inside of the structure is a ladder, the outside are sugar molecules that connect to each other with phosphate groups. The twisting of DNA gives it a ringed structure. This structure is said to have an orderly display of electrons and form what is dubbed as “pi-ways.” Pi-ways are created by the pi-electrons in the orbitals that hover above atoms that have a ringed structure. Electrons can travel through these pi-ways and conduct electricity. The ability of DNA to conduct electricity could be useful in miniature machines.

DNA Mini-Robots

In the future, factories will be filled with miniature robots instead of humans that will perform repetitive tasks. Nadrian Seemen of New York University in New York City designed a tiny robot, too small to even be seen by the microscope, out of DNA synthesized in the laboratory. He started with a synthetic DNA molecule he calls DNA DX, which has a shape that is rigid enough to be the robot's arm and in addition, looped together three different DNA pieces using enzymes. Seeman’s DNA robot contains strands of DNA that retain its properties, such as the natural twists and turns that occur in the molecule. Since the robot is too small to see through a microscope, fluorescent tags and telltale glows are added to each part of the DNA to monitor when the molecules are close apart. If they are close apart, glowing will occur, if not there will not be any glowing.

DNA Biosensor

In the future, DNA biosensors could be constructed to detect errors in the connection of the two complimentary strands of DNA. The DNA biosensor will be a tiny square chip consisting of sensing elements (a probe), a signal generator, and microlasers. The biosensor will glow when two strands match up at every nucleotide position. Ideally, when immersed in a fluid containing DNA it will detect disease-causing viruses and bacteria.

DNA Computers

A prototype for the first DNA computer was created in 1994. Creating a DNA computer makes sense because evolution has shown that DNA has been selected to hold the instructions for life. In addition, there is mathematics involved in how DNA is passed on from generation to generation, thus it is reasonable to create a DNA computer that will solve complicated mathematical problems. A regular computer would use algorithms and find all the possible routes to get to an answer if given a mathematical problem, while DNA computers will use DNA to create strands of the variables given in the problem and link them together to receive the correct answer without having to go through all of the possible ways to solve the problem.