Chemists claim to have created the world's first DNA molecule made almost entirely of artificial parts.

The finding could lead to improvements in gene therapy, futuristic nano-sized computers, and other high-tech advances, the Japanese researchers say.

DNA, popularly illustrated as a double helix, holds the blueprints of life and controls what every living organism becomes and how it functions.

Scientists have tried for years to develop artificial versions of DNA in order to take advantage of its amazing information storage capabilities. Already, DNA has been harnessed to create simple electronic circuits.

DNA uses just four basic building blocks, known as bases, to code proteins used in cell functioning and development. Other researchers have crafted DNA molecules with a few artificial parts.

But Masahiko Inouye and colleagues at the University of Toyama used stitched together four entirely new, artificial bases inside the sugar-based framework of a DNA molecule, creating unusually stable, double-stranded structures resembling natural DNA, they say.

Like natural DNA, the new ripoffs were right-handed and some easily formed triple-stranded structures. "The unique chemistry of these structures and their high stability offer unprecedented possibilities for developing new biotech materials and applications," the researchers said in a statement.

The breakthrough will be detailed in the July 23 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

"The artificial DNA might be applied to a future extracellular genetic system with information storage and amplifiable abilities," the researchers write.