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Using living cells as nanotechnology factories
Date:10/8/2008

In the tiny realm of nanotechnology, scientists have used a wide variety of materials to build atomic scale structures. But just as in the construction business, nanotechnology researchers can often be limited by the amount of raw materials. Now, Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University researcher Hao Yan has avoided these pitfalls by using cells as factories to make DNA based nanostructures inside a living cell.

The results were published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Yan specializes in a fast-growing field within nanotechnology -- commonly known as structural DNA nanotechnology -- that uses the basic chemical units of DNA, abbreviated as C, T, A, or G, to self-fold into a number of different building blocks that can further self-assemble into patterned structures.

"This is a good example of artificial nanostructures that can be replicated using the machineries in live cells" said Yan. "Cells are really good at making copies of double stranded DNA and we have used the cell like a copier machine to produce many, many copies of complex DNA nanostructures."

DNA nanotechnologists have made some very exciting achievements during the past five to 10 years. But DNA nanotechnology has been limited by the need to chemically synthesize all of the material from scratch. To date, it has strictly been a test tube science, where researchers have developed many toolboxes for making different DNA nanostructures to attach and organize other molecules including nanoparticles and other biomolecules.

"If you need to make a single gram of a DNA nanostructure, you need to order one gram of the starting DNA materials. Scientists have previously used chemical methods to copy branched DNA structures, and there has also been significant work in using long-stranded DNA sequences replicated from cells or phage viruses to scaffold short helper DNA sequences to form 2-D or 3-D obj
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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