Synthetic DNA could help scientists modify genes and create new biofuels


June 02, 2023

(Nanowerk News) Unlocking the potential of laboratory-made DNA, known as synthetic DNA, holds the key to breakthrough advances in several domains, according to quantum biologists from the University of Surrey.

Unlike naturally occurring DNA, synthetic DNA allows scientists to engineer new genes or enhance existing ones, opening the door to transformative possibilities in medicine and biotechnology. Synthetic DNA can also sustain Darwinian evolution, paving the way for exciting advances in the understanding of genetic systems.

In a unique study (RSC Progress, “How proton transfer affects hachimoji DNA”), a quantum biologist from Surrey investigated how protons move in Hachimoji DNA, which is a synthetic form of DNA undiscovered in natural life.

Using a method called density function theory, the team from Surrey calculated the proton transfer rate and how it affected temperature. They found that proton transfer occurred more easily with Hachimoji’s DNA than with regular DNA. Specifically, certain base pairs in Hachimoji’s DNA allow protons to move 30% faster than regular DNA. This suggests that Hachimoji’s DNA may have a higher probability of mutation compared to normal DNA.

Dr Louie Slocombe, principal investigator of the project at the University of Surrey comments: “The exploration of Hachimoji DNA and its distinctive properties presents exciting prospects for synthetic biology and genetic research. Our study provides invaluable insight into the dynamics of proton transfer in Hachimoji DNA, explaining its potential implications for mutation rates.

“This knowledge has the potential to guide future advances in DNA engineering and expand our understanding of genetic systems here on our planet and beyond.”

Hachimoji DNA is synthetic DNA created in a laboratory that extends the genetic code beyond the usual four letters (A, T, C, G). It incorporates four additional building blocks (Z, P, S, B), enabling more diverse possibilities in genetic information and, most importantly, opening new avenues in genetic research, synthetic biology and nanotechnology. Hachimoji DNA is seen as a promising candidate to engineer organisms with unique abilities and to develop innovative drugs.


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