By Morgan Clendaniel
It must be an incredibly cool party trick for scientists: Just add water to this pink liquid and it miraculously forms into the letters DNA. But it's not just a cool trick. It's a revolutionary new substance that could have interesting real-world applications.
The pink fluid in the video is a hydrogel, a substance whose gaps can absorb water. What's interesting about this hydrogel is that it was made entirely from from synthetic DNA. Because of the linking properties of DNA, this hydrogel will automatically return to the shape of the vessel it was created in when it touches water. As with most scientific discoveries, this one too was an accident, the scientists report in Nature Nanotechnology.
What is a synthetic DNA hydrogel good for besides making cool shapes appear at will? Futurity suspects that it might be involved in drug delivery. Hydrogels are already considered a good avenue for getting drugs into our bodies: A hydrogel that automatically maintains it's shape could be excellent for forming to the shape of a wound, for instance. Until then, let the petri dish theatrics continue.
Copyright 2012 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.