DNA Language

DNA Language

DNA molecule

The medical field involves many interconnected facets that depend on one another and work together. As new diseases are discovered, new ways of looking at things under microscopes are necessary to find treatments. Research works back and forth to both find what’s causing ailment and what might heal it. As new machines are invented to assist with diagnostics, communication, and surgery, it opens nuances as to what’s needed further.

In the midst of ever-changing medicine, it’s key to remember the basics of where anything begins in the first place, such as our DNA. DNA tells our cells what to do. If its structure is changed, then the messages it sends will also change (hugely impactful). Harvard engineers are using nano-sized legos to build DNA, to study the relationship between structure and message. A lego DNA structure makes sense on a number of levels: it’s a way of going back to the beginning both by using objects we associate with infancy and childhood play, and our internal DNA. We associate research with labs, objectivity, vacuum-sealed places, and a kind of cold seriousness. But research can actually use playful strategies to enhance intelligence. Sometimes, research looks like a bunch of brilliant engineers visualizing what they’re studying by building it out of legos.

For scientists, the work of research is a kind of play– wanting to figure something out is akin to detective work, to really understanding a complicated puzzle. The engineers at Harvard coded the DNA with 4 different letters, to further illustrate connectivity. This team also created a genetic copy of a book by translating it into the 0’s and 1’s of binary, and then replacing that binary with the 4-lettered DNA structure. The DNA strand that results from that translation can be decoded to get the full text of the book. Who knew that DNA could be used as an actual language in such a way?

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