Researchers create versatile 3D nanostructures using DNA 'bricks' (w/ video)

November 29, 2012, Harvard University
These are computer-generated 3D models (left) and corresponding 2D projection microscopy images (right) of nanostructures self-assembled from synthetic DNA strands called DNA bricks. A master DNA brick collection defines a 25-nanometer cubic “molecular canvas” with 1000 voxels. By selecting subsets of bricks from this canvas, Ke et al. constructed a panel of 102 distinct shapes exhibiting sophisticated surface features as well as intricate interior cavities and tunnels. These nanostructures may enable diverse applications ranging from medicine to nanobiotechnology and electronics. Credit: Yonggang Ke, Wyss Institute, Harvard University

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created more than 100 three-dimensional (3D) nanostructures using DNA building blocks that function like Lego® bricks—a major advance from the two-dimensional (2D) structures the same team built a few months ago.

In effect, the advance means researchers just went from being able to build a flat wall of Legos®, to building a house. The new method, featured as a cover research article in the 30 November issue of Science, is the next step toward using DNA nanotechnologies for more sophisticated applications than ever possible before, such as "smart" medical devices that target drugs selectively to disease sites, programmable imaging probes, templates for precisely arranging in the manufacturing of next generation , and more.

The technique, called "DNA-brick self-assembly," uses short, synthetic strands of DNA that work like interlocking Lego® bricks. It capitalizes on the ability to program DNA to form into predesigned shapes thanks to the underlying "recipe" of : A () only binds to T () and C () only binds to G ().

Earlier this year, the Wyss team reported in Nature how they could create a collection of 2D shapes by stacking one DNA brick (42 bases in length) upon another.

But there's a "twist" in the new method required to build in 3D.

The trick is to start with an even smaller DNA brick (32 bases in length), which changes the orientation of every matched-up pair of bricks to a 90 degree angle—giving every two Legos® a 3D shape. In this way, the team can use these bricks to build "out" in addition to "up," and eventually form 3D structures, such as a 25-nanometer solid cube containing hundreds of bricks. The cube becomes a "master" DNA "molecular canvas"; in this case, the canvas was comprised of 1000 so-called "voxels," which correspond to eight base-pairs and measure about 2.5 nanometers in size – meaning this is architecture at its tiniest.

The master canvas is where the modularity comes in: by simply selecting subsets of specific DNA bricks from the large cubic structure, the team built 102 3D structures with sophisticated surface features, as well as intricate interior cavities and tunnels.

"This is a simple, versatile and robust method," says Peng Yin, Ph.D., Wyss core faculty member and senior author on the study.

Another method used to build 3D structures, called DNA origami, is tougher to use to build complex shapes, Yin said, because it relies on a long "scaffold" strand of DNA that folds to interact with hundreds of shorter "staple" strands – and each new shape requires a new scaffold routing strategy and hence new staples. In contrast, the DNA brick method does not use any scaffold strand and therefore has a modular architecture; each brick can be added or removed independently.

"We are moving at lightning speed in our ability to devise ever more powerful ways to use biocompatible DNA molecules as structural building blocks for nanotechnology, which could have great value for medicine as well as non-medical applications," says Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D.

Explore further: Researchers develop nanodevice manufacturing strategy using DNA 'building blocks'

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not rated yet Nov 29, 2012

There's a number of different enabling technologies to Feynman/Drexler nanomanufacturing; they all seem to be maturing at the same time!(I expect some pretty exciting news around Jan 10 about Stm nanomanufacturing). But, dna-nanomanufacturing has advanced to the ability to do nano manufacturing sufficiently exciting before this article; this article makes dna-nanomanufacturing even more exciting and quite possible.

Nanotechnology in general can feel pretty confident that if nothing else happens, dna-nanomanufacturing can develop very well right now(in fact accellerated development from here on out!)
1.7 / 5 (3) Nov 29, 2012
Hahaha. Tetris blocks.
1.7 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2012
GMO's were only the beginning. keep messing with mother nature, and within a smaller-than-large number of generations you will get your ultimate psychopathic wish: human extinction
1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2012
GMO's were only the beginning. keep messing with mother nature, and within a smaller-than-large number of generations you will get your ultimate psychopathic wish: human extinction

We have enough suffering right now, at this very moment. If it comes to extinction then at least there is less suffering before the eventual end.

This has to happen so we can get along. There is no avoiding what is required for us to get along. All technology can be used incorrectly and has inherent hazards. The risks can only be mitigated completely with the truth: Forgiveness and strict adherence to the importance of all life. If something does wipe us out it will because of our failures to uphold truth and life first in all we do. What tech or lack thereof matters not. We have enough now. There is no excuse.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2012
To be fair, I have read reports that have stated findings relating to effects on the lungs (breathing) similar to asbestos and destruction of the blood urine barrier (ingestion) allowing them to mix.
The potential for everyone to be able to have their own replicating machine to make another machine or whatever they want is very real now. It appears from the right image that it's not that exact on these small scales, but on a larger scales these inconsistencies will not even be noticeable to the human eye.

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