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EchiDNA 2014


What is the difference between a single ant and a colony of social insects? What about a population of individual cells and a multicellular organism? Between monodispersed proteins and a multi-protein complex like the bacterial flagella motor?

We have drawn inspiration primarily from two sources in the design of our DNA biosensor - the molecular beacons used to identify trace amounts of DNA and the switching mechanism of the flagella motor used by bacteria. By taking inspiration from the design of the bacterial flagella motor, we are not only capitalising on millions of years of evolutionary optimisation of this natural switching mechanism but also building a unique experimental system in which to explore the phenomenon of cooperativity. Our team has designed a circular ring of DNA switches that are tethered together so that they ‘vote’ to undergo a conformational change. This conformational change is triggered by the increasing concentration of a specific DNA strand, which we anticipate will convert a continuous environmental signal into a discrete binary output. Our design is modular - therefore the DNA targeted by our biosensor might be anything; an ebola virus, a mutation associated with cancer, a gene causing antibiotic resistance. Furthermore, our biosensor is accompanied by an extensive mathematical model of its dynamics and thus we hope it will be tunable to specific outputs. This project lays the groundwork for a cheap, robust alternative to existing DNA biosensors, while simultaneously exploring a key component of all biological systems - cooperativity.  

Click here to see some background for our work, and to see why our project is relevant.

Click here to see how we tackled the project, including specification of our goals, and feasibility of our project.

Click here to see the merits of our innovative and elegant solution.

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