Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Twist, Stick, Fold
06 August 2014

Twist, Stick, Fold

DNA is a very flexible molecule. Aside from its usual role of storing genetic information, here it is being used as a building material. Tiny twisted nanotubes of DNA (purple splodges) are shown stuck to platforms of folded DNA (green star-like structures). Similar to pitons holding climbing ropes to the side of a mountain (although one million-times smaller), the manmade nanotubes act as secure anchor points for strings of amyloid fibrils threaded through the centre (purple lines passing through the splodges). This is a proof of principle, testing out four different ways of arranging such tiny mechanical parts onto platforms, before design can begin on drug-delivering nanostructures inside cells. The amyloid fibrils at the centre of this new technique are also moonlighting molecules. Although being put to good use here they’re infamous to biologists as strong, resilient waste materials that gather in the brain, often giving rise to Alzheimer’s disease.

Written by John Ankers

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