A Double Strand of DNA & The Art Of Origami Meet Nanotechnology

A new method of targeting drugs for delivery to cells is in development at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  The new method combines the art of DNA origami with the science of nanotechnology and is expected to result in drug-carrying nanostructures that can weather the storms of intracellular "hurricanes."

The researchers at Dana-Farber use double DNA strands to build their structures, and the origami forms they create may or may not resemble those created by natural cells. Nevertheless, these fine examples of origami art, which are really just the size of a virus and only visible through a powerful electron microscope, will functionally mimic our own cellular processes, which build transport systems to carry proteins and various other elements to other cells.

The study's lead author and lead researcher, William Shih, said the multi-layer DNA process he and his colleagues developed should enable scientists to make customized DNA objects approximating almost any three-dimensional shape. 

DNA is used as a material for the nanostructures because it is a great building component; it has the ability to continuously copy itself, and Shih's researchers have created a process whereby the DNA is encouraged to fold back on itself, forming a scaffold that makes it stronger.  Shih and his colleagues suggest that such a 'machine' is needed to carry medicines to the cells because the intracellular environment  "is chaotic and violent, like being in a hurricane."

The full study is published in this week's Nature.


Sources:  Dana-Farber Cancer Institute via insciences