May 26, 2015

World’s first digitally-encoded synthetic polymers

(May 26, 2015)  Researchers have for the first time succeeded in recording a binary code on a synthetic polymer. Inspired by the capacity of DNA to retain an enormous amount of genetic information, a team from the Institut Charles Sadron de Strasbourg (CNRS) and the Institut de chimie radicalaire (CNRS/Aix Marseille Université) synthesized and read a multi-bit message on an artificial polymer. The results were published in Nature Communications on May 26, 2015

With its 3.4 billion base pairs, human DNA can compile a tremendous amount of information in a tiny
space. All of the information stored is expressed using four nitrogenous bases: A, T, G and C. Researchers had previously been able to use the sequencing of these veritable molecular building blocks to reproduce a binary code. However, the technical limits of DNA made it necessary to develop the first synthetic polymer — cheaper, more malleable and able to store binary information. This has now been achieved for the first time by a team of French scientists from the CNRS and Aix-Marseille Université.

Instead of using the four nitrogenous bases of DNA, in this study the researchers used three monomers Two of these monomers represent the binary code numbers 0 and 1, and can be used interchangeably during synthesis. A third nitroxide monomer was inserted between the bits in order to facilitate the writing and reading of the coded sequence.

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