Arizona State University researchers Hao Yan and Yan Liu imagine and assemble intricate structures on a scale almost unfathomably small. Their medium is the double-helical DNA molecule, a versatile building material offering near limitless construction potential.
In the January 2, 2009 issue of Science, Yan and Liu, researchers at ASU's Biodesign Institute and faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, reveal for the first time the three-dimensional character of DNA nanotubules, rings and spirals, each a few hundred thousandths the diameter of a human hair. These DNA nanotubes and other synthetic nanostructures may soon find their way into a new generation of ultra-tiny electronic and biomedical innovations.
Yan and Liu are working in the rapidly proliferating field of structural DNA nanotechnology. By copying a page from nature's guidebook, they capitalize on the DNA molecule's remarkable properties of self-assembly. When ribbonlike strands of the molecule are brought together, they fasten to each other like strips of Velcro, according to simple rules governing the pairing of their four chemical bases, (labeled A, C, T and G). From this meager alphabet, nature has wrung a mind-bending multiplicity of forms. DNA accomplishes this through the cellular synthesis of structural proteins, coded for by specific sequences of the bases. Such proteins are fundamental constituents of living matter, forming cell walls, vessels, tissues and organs. But DNA itself can also form stable architectural structures, and may be artificially cajoled into doing so.
|Contact: Joe Caspermeyer|
Arizona State University