The applications for this discovery include nanotechnology - where DNA is used to make tiny machines, and in DNA-based computing - where computers are built from DNA rather than silicon.
It could also be used for detecting the presence of copper cations, which are highly toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms, in water.
Lead researcher Dr ZoŽ Waller, from UEA's school of Pharmacy, said: "Our research shows how the structure of our genetic material - DNA - can be changed and used in a way we didn't realise.
"A single switch was possible before - but we show for the first time how the structure can be switched twice.
"A potential application of this finding could be to create logic gates for DNA based computing. Logic gates are an elementary building block of digital circuits - used in computers and other electronic equipment. They are traditionally made using diodes or transistors which act as electronic switches.
"This research expands how DNA could be used as a switching mechanism for a logic gate in DNA-based computing or in nano-technology."