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Study Finds That DNA Can Assemble Into Nanostructures

By Darlene Tverdohleb | Aug 25, 2015 07:13 PM EDT

A Research Associate in the Intelligent Systems Group in the Department of Electronics at York, Dr Katherine Dunn, presents her findings in a paper published in the journal Nature. The research paper describes how Dr Dunn's experiments while she was a researcher at Oxford, demonstrated that DNA strands could self-assemble and in doing so they follow identifiable distinct pathways.

Scientists use the DNA origami technique for building inanimate physical structures at the nanoscale. This technique allows synthesis of a wide range of self-assembling nanostructures by exploiting DNA's remarkable properties. According to scientists, a typical DNA origami shape folds often primarily as desired and misfolded structures occur very rarely.

Dr Dunn studied a model system consisting of a nanostructure capable of folding into various configurations in a quest to gain a more detailed understanding of this assembly process. For her research, the scientist used specialized image processing software tools to look at the range of possible shapes. She concluded that these structures have preferred folding pathways for and that assembly is not random.

The researcher found evidence for cooperation between DNA strands in this assembly process at a nanoscale. She was able to prove that DNA strands can influence each other during assembly. Her research also established that minor modifications to the components could significantly alter how the nanostructure forms.

This discovery is of crucial importance and allows scientists the ability to exert more control over DNA self-assembly. As a result, they can radically improve the overall success of the nanoscale assembly process.

According to Dr Dunn, her work at Oxford brings light on the self-assembly of DNA origami. By better understanding, this process scientists made a significant breakthrough that could enable the development of more sophisticated DNA nanostructures designed for various specific purposes.

Among the potential applications of DNA origami devices and structures are included molecular computing, targeted drug delivery and the construction of nanoscale chemical assembly lines.

Dr Dunn, now a member of Professor Andy Tyrrell's team at York, works currently on a research that investigates how the DNA machines' characteristics modify when they are immobilized on a surface. The results of this research will help the integration of nanoscale DNA machines with conventional electronics and designing components of bio-inspired computing systems.

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