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Could Quantum Computing Be the Next Evolution in DNA Study?


DNA mapping methods, that is, identifying the sequence of nucleotide bases within a DNA strand, are fundamental to tailored healthcare and ailment detection, although even the most rapid methods take hours or even days to decipher a full sequence. Presently, a collaborative research group spearheaded by The Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (SANKEN) at Osaka University has crafted a method that may instigate a new model for genomic scrutiny. DNA strands are ordered series of nucleotide bases, i.e., the four ‘symbols’ that translate into vital information for the correct operation of a living entity.

For instance, altering the character of a single nucleotide among the several billion nucleotide couples in the human genetic code may result in a grave health disorder. The capacity to interpret DNA strands promptly and dependably is consequently indispensable for some pressing medical decisions, such as determining the course of a specific cancer treatment. Regrettably, genetic examination continues to be an obstacle for traditional computers, and it’s within this framework that quantum computers demonstrate potential. Quantum computers operate with quantum bits instead of the ‘0’ and ‘1’ utilized by classical computers, enabling a dramatic growth in processing velocity.

In a research article newly released in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, the scientists had the goal of employing a quantum computer to differentiate adenosine from the other three nucleotide compounds. Utilizing quantum encoding to recognize individual nucleotide molecules represents an essential preliminary phase in the direction of the eventual objective of DNA analysis, a challenge the scientists aimed to tackle. “Through a quantum circuit, we demonstrate the method to identify a nucleotide utilizing solely the observation data from a lone molecule,” clarifies Masateru Taniguchi, the principal author of the research. “This marks the inaugural instance a quantum computer has been linked with observation data concerning an individual molecule, substantiating the practicality of applying quantum computers in the analysis of genomes.”

The investigators utilized electrodes possessing a nanoscale separation to sense individual nucleotides. The current-to-time relationship for the adenosine monophosphate nucleotide was distinct from that of the remaining three nucleotides. This variation arises because the electron flow path from the nucleotide to the electrodes is influenced by the nucleotide’s chemical structure. This principle lays the groundwork for constructing a quantum gate, serving as a distinct molecular identifier for each nucleotide.

“Fluctuations in conductivity are reliant on unique molecular rotational patterns that are singular to every nucleotide,” states Tomofumi Tada, the senior author of the research. “In the existing configuration, separating adenosine monophosphate from the other three nucleotides isn’t exactly simple, yet DNA analysis could become feasible by crafting quantum gates for these additional nucleotides as well.” This undertaking possesses widespread and thrilling prospective uses: progress in the creation of medicines, detection of cancer, and the study of contagious diseases are just a few illustrations of what is anticipated with the emergence of extremely rapid genome assessment.

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