Move over, nanotechnologists, and make room for the biggest of the small. Scientists at Harvard's Wyss Institute have built a set of self-assembling DNA cages one-tenth as wide as a bacterium. The structures are some of the largest and most complex structures ever constructed solely from DNA, the scientists reported online on March 13, 2014 in Science. Moreover, the scientists visualized the structures using a DNA-based super-resolution microscopy method -- and obtained the first sharp 3D optical images of intact synthetic DNA nanostructures in solution. In the future, scientists could potentially coat the DNA cages to enclose their contents, packaging drugs for delivery to tissues. And, like a roomy closet, the cage could be modified with chemical hooks that could be used to hang other components such as proteins or gold nanoparticles. This could help scientists build a variety of technologies, including tiny power plants, miniscule factories that produce specialty chemicals, or high-sensitivity photonic sensors that diagnose disease by detecting molecules produced by abnormal tissue. "I see exciting possibilities for this technology," said 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. DNA is best known as a keeper of genetic information. But scientists in the emerging field of DNA nanotechnology are exploring ways to use it to build tiny structures for a variety of applications. These structures are programmable, in that scientists can specify the sequence of letters, or bases, in the DNA, and those sequences then determine the structure it creates.
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