Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a double-helix structure that carries the genetic information or instruction for every function and/or activity that occurs in the cells of all living organisms. It is the hereditary material of life. Each strand of DNA consists of blocks of nucleotide (each comprising of a pentose sugar, a nitrogenous base, and a phosphate group) that are joined to one another like a chain that takes the shape of a helix.
In every human, these bases occur in a unique order, and this uniqueness in the order of these bases forms the basis of the uniqueness of every human. No two humans, including identical twins, are alike in every aspect. The procedure that gives the order of arrangement of these nitrogenous bases – Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine(G), and Cytosine(C) – within a DNA molecule is called DNA Sequencing.
Scientists have always wanted to understand the mystery behind this uniqueness; to understand how these instructions are encoded; to understand the process of DNA sequencing. This prompted researchers from the University of Bristol to go into research and find out how these processes occur, particularly, how the flow of cellular processes within the DNA molecule can be controlled.
To understand fully this process, these researchers thought of creating valves in between the flows to regulate it. Just as valves regulate the flow of water from a pipe – either increasing or decreasing its speed of outflow – these biological valves would give them access to regulate the flow of the cellular processes, and manipulate them to control the behavior of cells in a way that can be helpful.
However, creating these valves within the DNA molecule can take quite a large amount of time. Therefore, to minimize the amount of time they would spend, they devised a means to bring together many DNA parts in parallel and were able to arrange them in a sequence using the nanopore sequencing technology. This technology helped them to break down the rules upon which the parts were designed, and to better understand how they work. They also found out how these valves can be used to regulate other components of the cell, enabling the manipulation of cell behavior for future purposes. They are still looking for the means to be able to use this technology positively.
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This knowledge is important to scientists as they can be able to control cell activity since genes are the programmers of the cell. Once cell behavior is understood, there can be full control of the occurrence of several cellular disorders that lead to diseases, especially single-gene disorders such as sickle cell anemia, in humans.
Researchers at the University of Bristol have been able to uncover the mystery behind DNA encoding of instructions, and also how to control the sequence of flow of these instructions. In addition, they built valves within the DNA molecule to enhance full control of this information. They are currently working to improve the nanopore sequencing technology to allow for better control of cellular activities.