New York University scientists have developed artificial structures that can self-replicate, a process that has the potential to yield new types of materials. The work, conducted by researchers in NYU’s Departments of Chemistry and Physics and its Center for Soft Matter Research, appears in the latest issue of the journal Nature

In the natural world, self-replication is ubiquitous in all living entities, but artificial self-replication has been elusive. The discovery in Nature reports the first steps toward a general process for self-replication of a wide variety of arbitrarily designed seeds. The seeds are made from DNA tile motifs that serve as letters arranged to spell out a particular word. The replication process preserves the letter sequence and the shape of the seed and hence the information required to produce further generations.
This process holds much promise for the creation of new materials. DNA is a robust functional entity that can organize itself and other molecules into complex structures. More recently DNA has been used to organize inorganic matter, such as metallic particles, as well. The re-creation by the NYU scientists of this type of assembly in a laboratory raises the prospect for the eventual development of self-replicating materials that possess a wide range of patterns and that can perform a variety of functions. The breakthrough the NYU researchers have achieved is the replication of a system that contains complex information. Thus, the replication of this material, like that of DNA in the cell, is not limited to repeating patterns.
“While our replication method requires multiple chemical and thermal processing cycles, we have demonstrated that it is possible to replicate not just molecules like cellular DNA or RNA, but discrete structures that could in principle assume many different shapes, have many different functional features, and be associated with many different types of chemical species,” added Nadrian Seeman, a professor in NYU’s Department of Chemistry and a co-author of the study.
This story is reprinted from material from New York University, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source