Computer chips that bridge the gap between the electronic and the biological could make detection of certain chemicals easier, and speed disease diagnosis. But first, researchers must develop technologies to mass produce DNA circuits as they produce chip circuits today.
The technique that Lee and Guan used is similar to a relatively inexpensive chip-making technology called soft lithography, where rubber molds press materials into shape.
In this study, they arranged the DNA into rows of "stitches," pinstripes and criss-cross shapes.
The pinstripes presented the researchers with a mystery: for some reason, thorn-like structures emerged along the strands at regular intervals.
"We think the 'thorns' may be used as interconnects between nanowires, or they could connect the nanowires with other electronic components," Guan said. "We are not trying to eliminate them, because we do not think they are defects. We also believe their formation is controllable, because they are almost completely absent in some experiments but abundant in others. Although we currently do not know exactly how the thorns form, maybe new and useful nanostructures may be created if we can better understand and control this process."
The university will license the technology for further development. Lee and Guan are working on their first application ?building the wires into sensors for detecting disease biomarkers. In the meantime, they are collaborating with researchers in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Ohio State to measure the electrical properties of the DNA wires. They are also using this technique to produce DNA-based nanoparticles for gene delivery.