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Mar 7, 2016

Newly developed model of DNA sheds light on molecule’s flexibility

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, computing, genetics, nanotechnology

Knowledge of how DNA folds and bends could offer new perspective on how it is handled within cells while also aiding in the design of DNA-based nano-scale devices, says a biomedical engineer at Texas A&M University whose new motion-based analysis of DNA is providing an accurate representation of the molecule’s flexibility.

The model, which is shedding new light on the physical properties of DNA, was developed by Wonmuk Hwang, associate professor in the university’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, and his Ph.D. student Xiaojing Teng. Hwang uses computer simulation and theoretical analysis to study biomolecules such as DNA that carry out essential functions in the human body. His latest model, which provides a motion-based analysis of DNA is detailed in the scientific journal ACS Nano. The full article can be accessed at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsnano.5b06863.

In addition to housing the genetic information needed to build and maintain an organism, DNA has some incredibly interesting physical properties that make it ideal for the construction of nanodevices, Hwang notes. For example, the DNA encompassed within the nucleus of one human cell can extend to four feet when stretched out, but thanks to a number of folds, bends and twists, it remains in a space no bigger than one micron – a fraction of the width of a human hair. DNA also is capable of being programmed for self-assembly and disassembly, making it usable for building nano-mechanical devices.

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