Nanodevices could be unleashed by DNA-brick self-assembly

Some crystal structures made using the DNA-brick self-assembly method--Courtesy of Harvard University's Wyss Institute

Strands of DNA interlocked like Lego bricks could become the key ingredient for tomorrow's nanoscale devices, according to Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Much like Lego, the key feature of the structures created using the so-called DNA-brick self-assembly method, is their modularity. According to the news release, the structures are first designed via a computer model of a molecular cube, known as the "master canvas."

"The ability to simply add or remove pieces from the master canvas makes it easy to create virtually any design," said Yonggang Ke, biomedical engineering professor at Georgia Tech and Emory University in the release. "This is the first time anyone has demonstrated the ability to rationally design crystal depth with nanometer precision, up to 80 nm in this study."

Due to that precision, the team was able to position gold nanoparticles less than two nanometers apart from each other, the release said, adding that the particles are important for future quantum devices.

"DNA crystals are attractive for nanotechnology applications because they are comprised of repeating structural units that provide an ideal template for scalable design features", said Harvard graduate student Luvena Ong in the release. Ong is a co-author of a paper in Nature Chemistry describing the study results.

Nanoscale medical devices will play a crucial role in the future. In one famous example, a Stanford University team built an experimental, pacemaker-like device that is smaller than a grain of rice and can be wirelessly charged from outside the body.

This method of designing and producing devices using DNA as the building block will enable the creation of even more such breakthroughs. The research was led by Peng Yin of Harvard Medical School.

"Peng's team is using the DNA-brick self-assembly method to build the foundation for the new landscape of DNA nanotechnology at an impressive pace," said Wyss Institute founding director Dr. Don Ingber in the release. "What have been mere visions of how the DNA molecule could be used to advance everything from the semiconductor industry to biophysics are fast becoming realities."

- read the news release
- here's the paper abstract

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