And you thought being able to fold a single sheet of paper into a crane was impressive. Scientists from North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of Copenhagen have taken origami to the next level with the creation of the world’s biggest DNA origami. And not just to impress us with their skills: it could have all kinds of scientific, medical, and engineering applications, from learning more about how cells behave to constructing nanoelectronics.
Of course, given that we’re talking about nanoparticles here, ‘biggest’ is relative. Their structure measures approximately 200 nanometres by 300 nanometres. (A nanometre is one billionth of a metre.) But that’s a huge leap forward given that researchers had previously only been able to create a structure 70 nm by 90 nm.
DNA origami are structures made up of two different types of DNA: the scaffold strand, which is biologically-derived, and synthetic, lab-made strands called staple strands. These staple strands each contain some of the building blocks of DNA. They’re added to a solution with the scaffold strand, and while this is heated up then cooled, the two types of strand knit together.
Integral to the team’s success was finding a cost-effective, automated way to make more than 1600 staple strands. In the end, they were able to create uniform DNA shapes on a plastic chip by modifying an inkjet printer – proving that they do sometime work when you want them to, after all.
Image by Andreas Bauer Origami-Kunst via Wikimedia Commons.
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