Physicists use ‘Single-molecule Tetris’ to observe DNA at the nanoscale

tetrisPhysicists in Canada are using a technique that borrows from one of the most well known video games of all time to observe DNA on the nanoscale. They are calling the method “single-molecule Tetris.”

The approach contains the DNA molecules in a nanoslit with a lattice of embedded nanocavities. The DNA then moves in and out of these nanoscopic channels and holes forming the shapes we are familiar with from Tetris. You can see the “Z” shape illustrated above where the DNA molecule has occupied four cavities on the lattice. You can see the DNA chains jumping between the different Tetris shapes below.


The bending and shaping of the DNA chains allows the scientists to measure two characteristics of the DNA – the width and the confined free energy. The confined free energy of DNA is also described as the “entropy” and is driving force for mixing of DNA and other polymers. Here it relates to how many ways energy of the molecule can be arranged.

The research shows the different shapes the DNA molecule can take on while keeping the same distance between its two ends. The results were published in a journal this month and shows the conditions under which the DNA can be trapped in the cavities. Up until now this has been a very difficult thing to do, but thanks to this novel idea and the physicists behind it this task has been made much easier. The results obtained from the research could help biologists improve genome sequencing in order to get valuable genetic information from DNA. Genome sequencing has been very important in studying things such as genetic diseases.

Science has always been important for gaming, so it’s great to see an instance where games have given back to science. Of course scientists have also been using the kinect for many projects since the first one came out for the Xbox 360.

As a side note, I think the scientists should be commended for doing a far better  job on Tetris than Ubisoft did.

[source:, Measuring the Confinement Free Energy and Effective Width of Single Polymer Chains via Single-Molecule Tetris]

One comment

  1. Rob Pearce ( User Karma: 5 ) says:

    “As a side note, I think the scientists should be commended for doing a far better job on Tetris than Ubisoft did.” lol meow 😉 . agree though. fascinating stuff.

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