Observing this process in unprecedented detail, the TUM researchers discovered that all of the action takes place within a specific and relatively narrow temperature range, which differs depending on the design of the object. One practical implication is that, once the optimal temperature for a given design has been determined, DNA self-assembly nanomanufacturing, in essence could be accomplished through fast processes at constant temperatures. Following up on this lead, the researchers found that they could "mass-produce" objects made from hundreds of DNA strands within minutes instead of days, with almost no defective objects or by-products in the resulting batch.
"Besides telling us that complex DNA objects are manufacturable," Dietz says, "these results suggest something we hardly dared to imagine before that it might be possible to assemble DNA nanodevices in a cell culture or even within a living cell."
From the viewpoint of fundamental biology, the most intriguing result of these experiments may be the discovery that DNA folding resembles protein folding more closely than anticipated. Chemically and structurally, the two families of biomolecules are quite different. But the researchers observed clearly defined "cooperative" steps in the folding of complex DNA objects, no different in principle from mechanisms at work in protein folding. They speculate that further experiments with self-assembly of designed DNA objects could help to unravel the mysteries of protein folding, which is more complex and less accessible to direct study.
|Contact: Patrick Regan|
Technische Universitaet Muenchen