London, Nov 4 : While organisms are known for their ability to reproduce, scientists have now successfully created an artificial material that can repeatedly copy itself.
The scientists claimed that a careful designing of these sequences, could enable them to build various structures from them, like microscopic relief maps of the Americas.
Using micrometre-scale particles, scientists showed that when in solution, these particles self-organise into units capable of reproducing.
"While nature teems with organisms that readily reproduce, no one has yet succeeded in making an artificial material that can repeatedly copy itself," New Scientist quoted Paul Chaikin and colleagues at New York University, US, as saying.
The idea behind making these particles is based on the fact that sequences of DNA can be designed to recognise and bond with each other.
Micrometre-sized particles of plastic, glass or metal can be induced to assemble themselves into complex objects by coating them with DNA and then using the right sequences for arrangement.
These arrangements can further self-replicate by corralling other DNA-tagged particles into more versions of the same thing.
The DNA bonds can be forged and broken by just heating and cooling the mixture, and chemicals can be used to modify the binding sequences in between each round of replication so as to produce very complex structures.
Such a technique of creating new materials could pave the way for building regular structures like those used in microelectronics.
In fact, it could produce entirely new materials, such as photonic crystals that control the movement of light through them in the same way as electricity flows through a semiconductor.
The researchers said that the method is particularly suited to colloids - micrometre-sized particles suspended in a fluid.
They said that experiments on colloids have proved that self-replication is possible.
The scientists say that tagging colloid particles with a range of DNA coatings that fluoresce at different wavelengths, could turn a mixture into a collection of ordered lines of particles after a self-replicating "seed" structure was added.