Scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and Harvard University have discovered a novel toolbox for making nanoscale structures out of DNA. Supposedly, this could be carried out by complex twisting and curving shapes.
DNA is known to be a standard for nanoscale engineering. In addition, DNA seems to have double advantages of being a smart material and being very well distinguished as a result of decades of study. A smart material is one which is not only tough and flexible but also programmable, reveal the experts associated with this study.
Researchers performed a series of experiments in which they folded DNA, origami-like, into three-dimensional objects. It also included a beach ball-shaped wire frame capsule of about 50 nanometers in diameter.
“Our goal was to find out whether we could program DNA to assemble into shapes that exhibit custom curvature or twist, with features just a few nanometers wide. It worked. And we can now build a diversity of three-dimensional nanoscale machine parts, such as round gears or curved tubes or capsules. Assembling those parts into bigger, more complex and functional devices should be possible,” says biophysicist Hendrik Dietz, a professor at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen.
Apparently, the basic tools which the researchers utilized are programmable self-assembly and targeted insertions or deletions of base pairs which could give these bundles the desired twist or curve. It was noted that self-assembly is a way of directing DNA strands in order to form custom-shaped bundles of cross-linked double helices. However, twisting could be specified as either right-handed or left-handed. Researchers seemed to have achieved a precise, quantitative control of these shapes with a radius of curvature as tight as about 6 nanometers.
The toolbox which the researchers developed seemed to include a graphical software program which may assist in translating specific design concepts into the DNA programming. This DNA programming appears to be essential for the researchers in order to understand the DNA. Evidently, three-dimensional shapes are produced by ‘tuning’ the number, arrangement, and lengths of helices.
Dietz further elucidated that, “Many advanced macroscopic machines require curiously shaped parts in order to function. And we have the tools to make them. But we currently cannot build something intricate such as an ant’s leg or, much smaller, a ten-nanometer-small chemical plant such as a protein enzyme. We expect many benefits if only we could build super-miniaturized devices on the nanoscale using materials that work robustly in the cells of our bodies – biomolecules such as DNA.”
Researchers in their recent paper have presented an extensive variety of nanoscale structures. Also, they seemed to have described in detail how they designed, formed, and verified them.
It was noted that on this experiment, Dietz worked in collaboration with Professor William Shih and Dr. Shawn Douglas of Harvard University.
The findings of the research will be soon published in the journal Science.