March 15, 2006
Scientist Does ‘Origami’ Folding with DNA
LONDON -- A research scientist in the United States has taken the art of "origami" folding to new heights -- using not paper but DNA.
Paul Rothemund of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said on Wednesday he had woven strands of DNA into two-dimensional shapes that could be important in the design of nanodevices measuring only a few billionths of a meter across.
Nanotechnology involves manipulating materials on a molecular or atomic scale. One nanometre is a billionth of a meter, or about 80,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
In nature such molecular machines perform biological functions such as moving muscles and photosynthesis. The technology is already being used in cosmetics, computer chips, self-cleaning windows and stain-resistant clothes.
Rothemund, who described his DNA origami in the latest edition of the journal Nature, has constructed DNA objects as diverse as a triangle, five-pointed star, a smiley face and a tiny map of the Americas smaller than a typical bacterium.
"A biologist might use DNA origami to take proteins which normally occur separately in nature, and organize them into a multi-enzyme factory that hands a chemical product from one enzyme machine to the next in the manner of an assembly line," said Rothemund.
The process includes choosing a shape, using long DNA strands folded to form a scaffold of it, stapling it together with computer-generated short DNA strands and refining it on a computer.
"The results that emerge are stunning," Lloyd Smith, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said in a commentary on the research in the journal.