Can DNA be used as circuits in electronic devices? – The Jerusalem Post

Can DNA molecules be used for disease detection and electronics? In a groundbreaking study, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem claim that they can.

Previously known information on DNA molecules focused on its role in expressing heredity through genetic information.

However, throughout the years scientists have made an interesting discovery: DNA can also conduct electrical currents, opening up many, previously unthought of applications.

One possible application may be found in the field of electronics in which DNA molecules are being used as electric circuits in electronic devices. Another possibility is using the molecules to detect early stages of diseases like cancer and COVID-19.

In a recent study published in Nature Nanotechnology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Professor Danny Porath and his team at the university’s Institute of Chemistry and the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, demonstrated a highly-reliable method of measuring electric currents passing through a DNA molecule.  

The most significant finding that the team made was that the current passes through the DNA backbone, contrary to prior assumptions in the scientific community that the current flowed along DNA base-pairs.  
Illustration of Porath’s experiment showing a DNA molecule, through which an electric current is flowing, that is bound by two nanoparticles (orange circles) to the electrodes (yellow).

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“Our method’s high degree of reliability, experimental reproducibility and stability allows for a wide range of experiments, in which researchers may learn about the conduction properties of DNA and bring the field closer to creating DNA-based medical detectors and electronic circuits,” Porath said.

Attaching a single DNA molecule to electric contacts was no easy feat. It entailed overcoming long-held technical difficulties. Eventually, the breakthrough came from team-member PhD student Roman Zhuravel, who managed to an accurate technique for doing so.

For Porath, these findings are a career highlight, “we were able to debunk a twenty-year-old paradigm. While many technical hurdles still need to be worked out, we’ve taken a big step forward toward the holy grail of building a DNA-based electronic circuit.”
Professor Danny Porath. 

The study was led by Porath in conjunction with Alexander Kotlyar at Tel Aviv University, the late Yossi Sperling from the Weizmann Institute, and researchers from Cyprus, Spain, the United States and India.

Its findings are considered a major step towards unimaginable applications that just may change the way we understand DNA and the possibilities it brings with it.