Researchers created self-assembling DNA cages that are one-tenth the size of a bacterium.
The researchers used a DNA-based super-resolution microscopy method to capture 3D images of the nanostructures in a solution, a Harvard Wyss Institute news release reported. These structures are some of largest and most complex ever created from DNA.
In the future the nanocages could be used deliver drugs to tissue or as "hooks" that proteins and gold nanoparticles could be hung on. This method could lead to tiny power plants and factories as well as disease-sensing devices.
"I see exciting possibilities for this technology," Peng Yin, Ph.D., a Core Faculty member at the Wyss Institute and Assistant Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, and senior author of the paper, said in the news release.
In order to manipulate DNA most researchers have used a method called DNA origami, which "staples" together short DNA strands and forming it into a precise shape. In making these new nanocages the researchers used "DNA Bricks," which can be compared to LEGO®blocks; except these pieces are self-assembling.
The team used DNA origami to create extra-large blocks that were shapes like a photographer's tripod. The researchers were trying to attach the legs of this "tripod" end-to-end to form a polyhedral; when they attempted to accomplish this they found the tripod legs splayed and wobbled. To remedy this they built a horizontal strut to stabilize the legs.
The team created five polyhedra: "a tetrahedron, a triangular prism, a cube, a pentagonal prism, and a hexagonal prism," the news release reported.
"Bioengineers interested in advancing the field of nanotechnology need to devise manufacturing methods that build sturdy components in a highly robust manner, and develop self-assembly methods that enable formation of nanoscale devices with defined structures and functions," Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. said in the news release. "Peng's DNA cages and his methods for visualizing the process in solution represent major advances along this path."