No-hands origami: New DNA self-assembly makes more complex structures, more easily

March 20, 2006

ATLANTA -- A computer scientist at CalTech has developed a way to "program" strands of DNA to fold themselves into a variety of complex shapes -- an accomplishment considered the most intricate yet in the field of self-assembly -- and via a method he calls so simple that "a high schooler could do it." The potential implications of the work are enormous, not only in the area of electronic miniaturization but even in such a diverse application as organizing and automating an assembly line for protein manufacturing.Paul Rothemund, Ph.D., of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., will present his findings March 26 in Atlanta, Ga., at the 231st national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. A paper on the discovery, which Rothemund calls "scaffolded DNA origami," was published in the March 16 issue of the journal Nature.

The complexity of shapes that Rothemund has achieved from programming strands of DNA, including snowflakes, smiley faces and even a map of the Americas, are about 10-fold more complex than the field of molecular self-assembly has mustered to date, yet one doesn't even need a science degree to make them, according to Rothemund.

The technique is simple because it starts with a single, complete scaffold -- one strand of viral DNA -- and uses short, complementary strands as staples to fold and keep the scaffold in place.

In Rothemund's 'one-pot' approach, "the scaffold is already perfect; all the information is there," he says, "so you can afford to be sloppy about the purity and quantities of the staples. All that matters is that some good copies of them are in there somewhere."

Folding DNA into smiley faces would be little more than fancywork if it weren't for its implications. Computer experts, for example, believe the traditional silicon chip has about a decade's worth of technology left to squeeze before miniaturization leaves it behind. What will comprise the next transistors, wires and architecture is as yet anybody's guess; electronic devices might be self-assembled on DNA "circuit boards," for instance, and not in factories but beakers.

Indeed, two biochemistry professors at the University of Notre Dame, Marya Lieberman and Koshala Sarveswaran, plan to use Rothemund's technique in tests using electron beams to guide complex DNA structures into place on silicon wafers.

"The nice thing about what Paul's done is that he's taken us an important step closer to making whatever structure you care to imagine, from the bottom up," said Lieberman, who organized the symposium at which Rothemund presented his findings.

Several principles of Rothemund's approach have broken through traditional rules for nanoscale fabrication with DNA. For example, he doesn't use intensive computing to design the shapes, though they're more complicated than ever. Neither does he purify his starting materials, nor assemble them step-by-step into the final structure. Instead, he's developed a one-pot method that produces more intricate structures, more quickly, cheaply and easily.

And true three-dimensional structures "are just around the corner," he adds "They can be made using exactly the same principles."
-end-
The American Chemical Society -- the world's largest scientific society -- is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

The paper on this research, COLL 60, will be presented at 4:10 p.m., Monday, March 26, OMNI at CNN Center, International Ballroom F, during the symposium "Ultra High Resolution Lithography."

Paul Rothemund, Ph.D., is a senior research fellow in Computer Science and Computation and Neural Systems at the California Institute of Technology.

American Chemical Society

Related DNA Articles from Brightsurf:

A new twist on DNA origami
A team* of scientists from ASU and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) led by Hao Yan, ASU's Milton Glick Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, and director of the ASU Biodesign Institute's Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, has just announced the creation of a new type of meta-DNA structures that will open up the fields of optoelectronics (including information storage and encryption) as well as synthetic biology.

Solving a DNA mystery
''A watched pot never boils,'' as the saying goes, but that was not the case for UC Santa Barbara researchers watching a ''pot'' of liquids formed from DNA.

Junk DNA might be really, really useful for biocomputing
When you don't understand how things work, it's not unusual to think of them as just plain old junk.

Designing DNA from scratch: Engineering the functions of micrometer-sized DNA droplets
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have constructed ''DNA droplets'' comprising designed DNA nanostructures.

Does DNA in the water tell us how many fish are there?
Researchers have developed a new non-invasive method to count individual fish by measuring the concentration of environmental DNA in the water, which could be applied for quantitative monitoring of aquatic ecosystems.

Zigzag DNA
How the cell organizes DNA into tightly packed chromosomes. Nature publication by Delft University of Technology and EMBL Heidelberg.

Scientists now know what DNA's chaperone looks like
Researchers have discovered the structure of the FACT protein -- a mysterious protein central to the functioning of DNA.

DNA is like everything else: it's not what you have, but how you use it
A new paradigm for reading out genetic information in DNA is described by Dr.

A new spin on DNA
For decades, researchers have chased ways to study biological machines.

From face to DNA: New method aims to improve match between DNA sample and face database
Predicting what someone's face looks like based on a DNA sample remains a hard nut to crack for science.

Read More: DNA News and DNA Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.