February 28, 2023
Researchers from Sophia University in Japan have developed a new molecular model to teach students about nucleobase pairing. The BasePairPuzzle uses embedded magnets to accurately mimic hydrogen bonds in molecules, enabling students to visualize and understand the three-dimensional structure of DNA, including the structure of the double helix, and the effects of point mutations.
Most molecular models available in the market cannot represent intermolecular interactions, particularly hydrogen bonds, which are a critical type of attractive force involved in base pairing. The BasePairPuzzle is an innovative design that allows students to feel and see how nucleobases pair with each other. The model can be used to demonstrate that there is great diversity in nucleobase pairs beyond the complementary A-T and C-G pairs and how DNA mutations occur.
The 3D printed puzzle pieces have strategically placed crannies that can fit commercial, cylindrical neodymium magnets, which accurately mimic the hydrogen bonds and electrostatic forces that naturally exist between nucleobase pairs. They’re also buoyant and waterproof, so you can throw them into water and see how they would behave in a more natural setting (i.e floating around in a fluid).
The researchers have made the necessary files for 3D printing BasePairPuzzle pieces available to everyone free of charge, hoping to provide a hands-on experience of nucleobase pairing to as many students as possible.