DNA origami – designing minute structures for uses such as drug deliverers, biosensors or molecular motors
What is DNA? Perhaps it’s precious information – a spool of chemical code unwound to reveal genes, instructions for building the proteins which shape life. But in other labs, bioengineers are excited by the flexible, bendable and ‘sticky’ nature of DNA – they’re using it to build tiny structures to carry drug compounds inside cells. Taking this DNA origami further, researchers are thinking bigger – combining lengths of DNA into larger ‘meta-DNA’ structures that behave similarly to the smaller natural molecules. Pictured in 3D under a transmission electron microscope, triangular and square-shaped meta-DNA can self-assemble into complex structures (top two rows, or preserved in a coating of silica on the bottom row). Customising these biological building blocks, researchers now hope to perfect designs for biosensors or even molecular motors inside the body.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.