May 31st, 2012 by James Ayre
Researchers have recently developed a technique to build complex nano-structures out of short synthetic strands of DNA.
Referred to as single-stranded tiles (SST), the short strands of DNA are interlocking building blocks similar to LEGOs®. They can be programmed to arrange themselves in very precisely designed shapes, such as numbers, letters, and shapes.
The researchers hope that further developing this technology will allow the creation of new nano-scales devices that could perform functions such as precise deliveries of drugs to specific organs or disease sites.
DNA is known as the keeper of genetic information. In the new field of nano-technology, it’s being explored as a material for making tiny, self-assembling structures. These structures could then be used for a wide range of different applications.
Previous to this new research, most was done by using a single, long strand of biological DNA as a backbone with smaller strands binding to it to create different shapes.
The new technique focuses on the smaller strands, each SST is a single, short, strand of DNA that can interlock with other SST’s. If there are no complementary matches, then the blocks do not connect. This allows a collection of tiles to arrange itself into specific predetermined shapes.
To demonstrate the method, the researchers created over 100 different shapes, including letters, numbers, fonts, and Chinese characters. The technique uses hundreds of different tiles for a single structure of 100 nano-meters.
The researchers think that this technique could have important applications in medicine, such as in drug delivery systems. Their advantages being high biocompatibility, their flexibility and range of possible programming, and their robustness.
“Use of DNA nanotechnology to create programmable nanodevices is an important focus at the Wyss Institute, because we believe so strongly in its potential to produce a paradigm-shifting approach to development of new diagnostics and therapeutics,” said Wyss Founding Director, Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D.
The research was supported by the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.
The research has just been published in the journal Science.
Source and Images: Harvard University
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