You can do terrific things with DNA – convicting a murderer, confirming the right father … and building computers! As biomolecular computing is ever-growing, scientists from the University of East Anglia found a new way to convert DNA in a switching mechanism. This could be used in new bio-computers built from DNA.
The structure of DNA is dependent on its surrounding medium. For example, when you add acid to a neutral strand of DNA, it will fold up into a structure known as an ‘i-motif’. When you add a base to the i-motif, it unfolds again. These properties are used as a pH-based switch-on, switch-off system in several nanotechnological applications.
Lead researcher Dr. Zoë Waller and her colleagues have found a new way to further switch the structure of DNA – independently of the pH! As simple as it seems, they used copper salts to fold the DNA and EDTA to unfold it by binding to the copper ions. By using these chemicals, the i-motif can reorganize itself in a so-called ‘hairpin’