As if billowing in the breeze, this picture shows a piece of flapping fabric made almost entirely from human DNA. Roughly 20,000 times smaller than a shirt on a washing line, it was stitched together by a series of chemical reactions. Strips of tightly connected DNA molecules – called DNA nanotubes (highlighted in red and green here) – were strung together along thinner, flexible strands of DNA, giving the material a secret ability. Another chemical reaction locks the nanotubes in place like stuck slats in a window blind, instantly turning a draping cloth into a firm platform or support. Such shape-shifting fabrics might be just the thing to inject back into human bodies as biodegradable scaffolding to help our tissues repair. With many more important uses to explore for this DNA-based material, we’re unlikely to get around to making jeans out of genes any time soon.
Written by John Ankers
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.