Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Engineers invent programming language to build synthetic DNA

Date:
September 30, 2013
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
Scientists have developed a programming language for chemistry that they hope will streamline efforts to design a network that can guide the behavior of chemical-reaction mixtures in the same way that embedded electronic controllers guide cars, robots and other devices.

An example of a chemical program. Here, A, B and C are different chemical species.
Credit: Yan Liang, L2XY2.com

Similar to using Python or Java to write code for a computer, chemists soon could be able to use a structured set of instructions to "program" how DNA molecules interact in a test tube or cell.

A team led by the University of Washington has developed a programming language for chemistry that it hopes will streamline efforts to design a network that can guide the behavior of chemical-reaction mixtures in the same way that embedded electronic controllers guide cars, robots and other devices. In medicine, such networks could serve as "smart" drug deliverers or disease detectors at the cellular level.

The findings were published online this week (Sept. 29) in Nature Nanotechnology.

Chemists and educators teach and use chemical reaction networks, a century-old language of equations that describes how mixtures of chemicals behave. The UW engineers take this language a step further and use it to write programs that direct the movement of tailor-made molecules.

"We start from an abstract, mathematical description of a chemical system, and then use DNA to build the molecules that realize the desired dynamics," said corresponding author Georg Seelig, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering and of computer science and engineering. "The vision is that eventually, you can use this technology to build general-purpose tools."

Currently, when a biologist or chemist makes a certain type of molecular network, the engineering process is complex, cumbersome and hard to repurpose for building other systems. The UW engineers wanted to create a framework that gives scientists more flexibility. Seelig likens this new approach to programming languages that tell a computer what to do.

"I think this is appealing because it allows you to solve more than one problem," Seelig said. "If you want a computer to do something else, you just reprogram it. This project is very similar in that we can tell chemistry what to do."

Humans and other organisms already have complex networks of nano-sized molecules that help to regulate cells and keep the body in check. Scientists now are finding ways to design synthetic systems that behave like biological ones with the hope that synthetic molecules could support the body's natural functions. To that end, a system is needed to create synthetic DNA molecules that vary according to their specific functions.

The new approach isn't ready to be applied in the medical field, but future uses could include using this framework to make molecules that self-assemble within cells and serve as "smart" sensors. These could be embedded in a cell, then programmed to detect abnormalities and respond as needed, perhaps by delivering drugs directly to those cells.

Seelig and colleague Eric Klavins, a UW associate professor of electrical engineering, recently received $2 million from the National Science Foundation as part of a national initiative to boost research in molecular programming. The new language will be used to support that larger initiative, Seelig said.

Co-authors of the paper are Yuan-Jyue Chen, a UW doctoral student in electrical engineering; David Soloveichik of the University of California, San Francisco; Niranjan Srinivas at the California Institute of Technology; and Neil Dalchau, Andrew Phillips and Luca Cardelli of Microsoft Research.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the National Centers for Systems Biology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yuan-Jyue Chen, Neil Dalchau, Niranjan Srinivas, Andrew Phillips, Luca Cardelli, David Soloveichik, Georg Seelig. Programmable chemical controllers made from DNA. Nature Nanotechnology, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2013.189

Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Engineers invent programming language to build synthetic DNA." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930121610.htm>.
University of Washington. (2013, September 30). Engineers invent programming language to build synthetic DNA. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930121610.htm
University of Washington. "Engineers invent programming language to build synthetic DNA." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930121610.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

AFP (July 29, 2014) Coal mining is one of the major industries in Baluchistan but a lack of infrastructure and frequent accidents mean that the area has yet to hit its potential. Duration: 01:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

AP (July 29, 2014) The U.S. nuclear industry started building its first new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and prevent the cost overruns that crippled the sector decades ago. So far, it's not working. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lithium Battery 'Holy Grail' Could Provide 4 Times The Power

Lithium Battery 'Holy Grail' Could Provide 4 Times The Power

Newsy (July 28, 2014) Stanford University published its findings for a "pure" lithium ion battery that could have our everyday devices and electric cars running longer. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins