DNA resembles seat belt

01 September 2011 by Webredactie

TU Delft researchers have discovered that DNA has properties that resemble those of a seat belt. If you pull it sharply, it ‘blocks’; if you pull it slowly, it stretches. It is important to know how strong DNA is if we are to better understand processes such as replication (DNA doubling) and expression (the elaboration of a gene).

Researcher Dr. Lambert van Eijck: “We previously thought that DNA was stiff; later, it appeared to be softer. Also research results differed greatly. We now know that DNA is both stiff and soft: it all depends on how quickly you pull on it. Moreover, we now understand why these measurement results were so different.”

The strength of DNA was determined by sending sound waves through the DNA helix and measuring the vibrations. The measured frequencies and amplitudes of these vibrations were a good match with previously made computer calculations based on a DNA scale model. With a simulated slow pulling of the scale model, previously published results about ‘soft’ DNA fell into place.


The research was published in Physical Review Letters on 19 August 2011.

More information

Dr. L. van Eijck
tel: +31 (0)15 27 85731 

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