Building DNA Crystals Brick-By-Brick | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 92 Issue 43 | p. 25 | Concentrates
Issue Date: October 27, 2014

Building DNA Crystals Brick-By-Brick

Researchers program short DNA strands to form microscopic crystals
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Biological SCENE, Materials SCENE, Nano SCENE
Keywords: DNA, bricks, crystals, 3-D, nanotechnology
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Credit: Nat. Chem.
Graphic and micrograph show DNA bricks building 3-D crystals.
 
Credit: Nat. Chem.
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DNA BRICKS
Watch an animated demonstration of the DNA brick system at https://vimeo.com/54525361.
Credit: Nat. Chem.
A graphical representation of DNA strands engineered to serve as building blocks.
 
DNA BRICKS
Watch an animated demonstration of the DNA brick system at https://vimeo.com/54525361.
Credit: Nat. Chem.

Although DNA is usually billed as a genetic blueprint, researchers have also worked the biopolymer into their plans for building biosensors, semiconductors, and other devices. By programming the nucleotide sequence of each DNA molecule, scientists can control the bonding between strands and contort the polymers into seemingly arbitrary shapes. But building DNA crystals thicker than a few nanometers has proven to be a challenge. Researchers led by Yonggang Ke, Luvena L. Ong, Wei Sun, and Peng Yin of Harvard University have now developed a modular process for constructing crystals that can extend for micrometers in two directions and up to 80 nm in the third direction (Nat. Chem. 2014, DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2083). Working with their “DNA bricks,” the researchers are able to build cubic structures that serve as unit cells that self-assemble into larger lattices. By programming vacancies into these cuboids, the team creates crystals with more complex three-dimensional structures, such as channels and pores.

 
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