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|Wednesday, November 15, 2000, updated at 19:50(GMT+8)|
DNA Molecules Manipulated by Scientists at Nanometer ScaleUsing DNA molecules instead of ink, Chinese and German scientists have successfully "written"tiny letters that can only be seen after being magnified 100 million times with a microscope.
This represents man's first success in manipulating single biomacromolecules on the nanometer scale, laying an important basis for further progress in nanobiotechnology, a new interdisciplinary field that mainly combines nanotechnology and life sciences.
Experts attending the ongoing 2000 Shanghai Forum on Scienceand Technology said it represents a major breakthrough in the development of nanotechnology since 1990, when researchers with the American firm, IBM, initiated nanotechnological research in the world by forming the letters IBM with atoms.
According to their report released at the forum, which has attracted nearly 4,000 Chinese and overseas scientists and scholars, the Chinese and German scientists, led by Li Minqian with Shanghai Institute of Nuclear Research and Uwe Hartmann withGermany's Saarland University, turned DNA molecules into theletters DNA, each measuring 200 nanometers by 300 nanometers only.
They first aligned DNA strands to form a matrix of two-dimensional networks on solid substrate. An atomic force microscope with a needle was then used to convert the DNA networks into the letters in a process of cutting, curving and pushing.
Using this approach, according to Li, DNA strands can also be converted into other complex patterns like wavy structures and cylinders.
Zhang Zhihong, vice-director of the Biophysical Society of China and professor of Fudan University, said that the approach offers a general way for understanding and manipulating nanostructured systems and is conducive to human genome research as well as nano electronics.
When applied in genetic research, Zhang added, it may help realize a faster and more precise location of pathogenic mutantgenes and more accurate diagnosis of diseases related to genicmutation.
The scientists are applying for an international patent for the approach.
A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. An unknown field until very recently, research on nano-sized materials and related technology, which are expected to be widely used in such areas as microelectronics, computer manufacturing, medicine, spacetechnology, environment, energy, bio-technology and agriculture, has drawn worldwide attention.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences, the leading research institution in China, launched its nanometer science and technology center in October in a bid to promote the research and development in nanometer materials and technology. About 25 million yuan will be used for the effort over the next three years.
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