Nanotechnology is certainly the technology of the future. DNA is now known as a programmable material platform that could spawn new and radical nanodevices in computer science, microscopy, biology and much more. The trust of modern day research is to entice DNA molecules to self-assemble into the precise shapes and sizes needed in order to fully realize these nanotechnology objectives.
A team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard has been trying for the last 20 years to design large DNA crystals with accurately prescribed depth and complex features. The team has been successful to large extent in designing precisely-defined depth and an assortment of sophisticated three-dimensional, as documented in the Natural Resources journal.
William Shih, who is senior co-author of the study and a Wyss Institute Founding Core Faculty member, as well as associate professor in the department of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Cancer Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute had to say the following:
“My preconceived notions of the limitations of DNA have been consistently shattered by our new advances in DNA nanotechnology. DNA nanotechnology now makes it possible for us to assemble, in a programmable way, prescribed structures rivaling the complexity of many molecular machines we see in Nature.”
DNA-brick self-assembly was a revolutionary method which was first introduced in a 2012 Science publication when they fashioned more than 100 3-D complex nanostructures about the size of viruses. The latest perfected periodic crystal structures are more than 1,000 times larger than those discrete DNA brick structures.
Scientist have used more conventional self-assembly methods with little success to crystallize complex 3-D DNA nanostructures. The complexity of the structural repeating units and the size of the DNA crystal to be assembled increased the chances of errors.
The DNA brick method envisages use of synthetic strands of DNA that work like interlocking LEGO bricks to build complex structures. The structures were first created using computer model of a molecular cube which later served as a master canvas. The DNA strands which could match up to achieve the desired structure are mixed together and self-assemble to achieve the designed crystal structures
Co-lead author graduate student Luvena Ong said that DNA crystals are attractive for nanotechnology applications because they are comprised of repeating structural units that provide an ideal template for scalable design features.