Achievement Unlocked : Measuring forces of DNA molecule

As we all know our wonder molecule DNA has a double helix structure like that of a twisted ladder. But it also has something called as base pairs that keeps the DNA molecule stabilized. The forces between the base pairs that help them to be bonded are called stacking forces.

An illustration of base pair stacking forces in the DNA molecule.

So after a massive research for about 6 years, the scientists at the Technical University Of Munich (TUM) have succeeded at measuring these stacking forces for the very first time on the level of single base pairs. Hats off!!

Prof. Hendrick Dietz, from the Chair of Experimental Biophysics says that there are two types of interactions that stabilize double helices. They are hydrogen bonds and the stacking forces between the base pairs.

The measuring system which can measure the amount of force between the base pairs also makes it possible to measure for how long the stacking forces last before the bond falls apart.

Now you must be wondering the magnitude of this stacking force. Well….. Prof. Dietz explains us that the force measured by the scientists was in piconewtons ! Now for us to understand how small a piconewton is, consider a chocolate bar as one newton. A piconewton is……hold your breath… a thousandth of a billionth of that chocolate bar! All you need is 2 piconewton to separate the bond created by the stacking forces.

The scientists have also observed that the bonds spontaneously broke up and formed again within just a few milliseconds.

This discovery may help us to understand better the mechanical aspects of fundamental biological processes and even more than that. Only time will tell.

Reference : The above article has been referred from Science Daily

Edited by Siddhi Rao.


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