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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: DNArt

by Laura Howes
November 10, 2023


A matte, grainy image of red macaw created on a microarray using complementary DNA strands tethered to red, green, and blue fluorescent dyes.
Credit: Courtesy of Jory Lietard

It might not sound out of the ordinary that the colors of this parrot come from DNA, but the DNA in question isn’t stored in the parrot’s cells. Instead, this image was assembled on a 2D grid, using DNA strands tagged with red, green, and blue fluorescent dyes. Chemist Jory Lietard at the University of Vienna and Tadija Kekić, who is working toward a PhD in Lietard’s lab, created the image by first printing a template made from colorless DNA onto this surface, which is about the size of a fingernail. Each of the DNA sequences on the grid have been tailored to bind to the red, green, and blue DNA strands with a particular strength. In this case, the stronger the binding affinity is to each color strand, the stronger the color of each pixel. They say that by tweaking the DNA sequences, they can create high-definition images with up to 16 million different colors. The pair demonstrated their technique by reproducing several images, including Polly here, and you can see some of their other images below.

Four matte, grainy images of various landscapes including a city, a mountainous natural region, the seashore, and underwater coral. Each is created on a microarray using complementary DNA strands tethered to red, green, or blue fluorescent dyes.
Credit: Courtesy of Jory Lietard

Credit: Courtesy of Jory Lietard. Read the paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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