Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Beaded DNA Earrings

I took a break from beaded coffee chemistry to make some Christmas presents, but I didn't stray very far from the realm of scientific jewelry. A very good friend of mine hinted at wanting a DNA bracelet for Christmas, and I just can't turn her down. However, after wrapping my DNA necklace around my wrist and calculating that a bracelet would be about 40 beaded base pairs long, I wanted to test the color palette in mind before I beaded it altogether.

So, I made a few pairs of beaded DNA earrings, making yet more modifications to Gwen's fabulous pattern.
I beaded these earrings without the modifications for major and minor grooves that I used for the necklace, since it takes about 20 base pairs to see the grooves well, and it's difficult to appreciate them in a 10-bp pair of earrings. Instead, for these earrings, I adjusted the sizes of the seed beads in the backbone to make it narrower, and I used 11° seed beads for the bases. I used two seed beads each for the purines, A and G, and one seed bead for the pyrimidines, C and T, since purines are bigger than pyrimidines.

I beaded another pair in silver and the coffee colors sitting on my beading tray from the beaded caffeine molecules. In keeping with the coffee theme, I chose a sequence from the caffeine synthetase gene from the coffee plant, which encodes the enzyme that carries out the final step in caffeine biosynthesis. While the gene itself is nearly 2000 base pairs long, I only beaded the first 10 base pairs for these earrings. Like the pair above, I added a little twist by adding a cap to the bottom end with a sparkly bicone crystal.
There actually are caps on some nucleic acids in biology, most famously in DNA's close sibling RNA. mRNAs contain a 5' cap made of a specially modified G nucleotide, which serves to both stabilize the molecule (since RNA is much less stable than DNA), and to direct it to the ribosomes where it is read to make proteins. However, in these beaded DNA renditions, I must admit that I added the caps for purely aesthetic reasons.

I like how these earrings turned out, although I didn't get them to work without several attempts. To give you an idea, here are several of its prototypes:

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