Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Trapping viruses in DNA 'cages' to inhibit infections

07 September 2021

Half-shell Heroes

DNA origami – designing sequences of DNA to fold into tiny useful structures – is reaching an exciting stage: fine-tuning. Tweaking designs could make all the difference when putting devices like this to task inside our bodies. Pictured using cryogenic electron microscopy, this 'nano-shell' is designed to trap virus particles – it’s 10,000 times smaller than a crane claw in an amusement arcade game. Starting with an icosahedron shape (a ball made with 20 triangular faces), biotechnologists found the key to getting the triangular plates of DNA to stick together precisely is a slightly bumpy, bevelled surface. They're now able to make these open shells big enough to engulf viruses, successfully trapping hepatitis particles in lab-grown cells. The next challenge is to test and tweak the shells again, lining them with antibodies to recognise viruses inside living tissues, and trapping them before they can spread their infection.

Written by John Ankers

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