Smaller than specks of dust, these particles have been engineered to self-assemble into geometric shapes – some examples are shown at the top – with a technology that could one day help repair human tissue. Scientists know how to make tiny particles, called colloids, in various shapes but have only now found a way of making them stick together in an organised fashion. Chemical patches are engineered onto the surface of each particle, studded with strands of DNA that poke outwards and behave as ‘sticky ends’ – rather like the snap connectors on toy plastic building bricks. One of many potential applications of this technology is to engineer colloids found naturally in the human body into scaffold-like structures. These could be used to support the growth of cells as they form new tissue or body parts that are highly compatible with the recipient.
Written by Mick Warwicker
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.