Living things self-replicate, but artificial materials generally don't. At least not until now.
New York University researchers led by Paul Chaikin have found a way to use synthetic DNA to make molecules that reproduce themselves. The technique gives scientists a tool to create different combinations on the DNA that aren't necessarily available in nature. That opens up billions of possibilities for building completely new materials and even molecular machines. Chaikin and his colleaques reported their results in this week's journal Nature.
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Inside a living cell, enzymes split DNA's ladder-like double helix molecule down the middle, leaving two single strings of nucleotides. The enzymes then tack on new nucleotides to each half in order to create an identical copy. Where there was one double helix of DNA, there is two. The cell then uses the copied DNA to perform a biological function such as build a protein, for example. This replication is crucial to a lifeform's ability to exist and survive.