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DNA has an important job—it tells your cells which proteins to make. Now, a research team at the University of Delaware has developed technology to program strands of DNA into switches that turn proteins on and off.
UD's Wilfred Chen Group describes their results in a paper published Monday, March 12 in the journal Nature Chemistry. This technology could lead to the development of new cancer therapies and other drugs.
Project - Field - DNA - Computing - Data
This project taps into an emerging field known as DNA computing. Data we commonly send and receive in everyday life, such as text messages and photos, utilize binary code, which has two components—ones and zeroes. DNA is essentially a code with four components, the nucleotides guanine, adenine, cytosine, and thymine. In cells, the arrangement of these four nucleotides determines the output—the proteins made by the DNA. Here, scientists have repurposed the DNA code to design logic-gated DNA circuits.
"Once we had designed the system, we had to first go into the lab and attach these DNA strands to various proteins we wanted to be able to control," said study author Rebecca P. Chen, a doctoral student in chemical and biomolecular engineering (no relation to Wilfred Chen). The custom sequence designed DNA strands were ordered from a manufacturer while the proteins were made and purified in the lab. Next, the protein was attached to the DNA to make protein-DNA conjugates.
Group - DNA - Circuits - E - Coli
The group then tested the DNA circuits on E. coli bacteria and human cells. The target proteins organized, assembled, and disassembled in accordance with their design.
"Previous work has shown how powerful DNA nanotechnology might possibly be, and we know how powerful proteins are within cells," said Rebecca P. Chen. "We managed to link those two together."
Team - Devices - Cancer - Prodrug - Form
The team also demonstrated that their DNA-logic devices could activate a non-toxic cancer prodrug, 5-fluorocytosine, into its toxic chemotherapeutic form,...
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