Researchers from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have created a DNA technology with two new genetic letters that could better detect infectious diseases, such as dengue and Zika. Using this genetic alphabet expansion technology, IBN is developing DNA aptamers, which are modified DNA molecules that can bind to molecular targets in the body. The team plans to launch a test kit using these DNA aptamers to detect infectious diseases, such as dengue and Zika, in the next two years.
Just like how letters are strung together to form words, our DNA is also strung together by letters to encode proteins. The genetic alphabet contains only 4 natural letters - A, C, G and T, which hold the blueprint for the production of proteins that make our bodies work. Genetic alphabet expansion technology is the introduction of artificial base pairs into DNA.