I’ve been working on deadline and expect to be writing here more regularly soon. Here are a few recent nanotechnology news items of note, all involving nucleic acids:
- From Ned Seeman’s lab has come the first engineered, high-quality set of 3D DNA crystals, with X-ray diffraction data to prove it: “From molecular to macroscopic via the rational design of a self-assembled 3D DNA crystal”. This fulfills a quest of Ned’s that began when he was laying the foundations for the field of structural DNA nanotechnology in the 1980s. This result provides a basis for organizing other components into regular 3D arrays.
- Paul Rothemund, working with IBM, has demonstrated a major step toward integrating DNA-organized functional structures (the most complex self-assembled objects to date) with the kinds of structures found in modern nanoelectronics (the basis for the most complex nanosystems to date): “Placement and orientation of individual DNA shapes on lithographically patterned surfaces”.
- William Shih’s lab has taken another step in engineering thick, nonplanar DNA structures: “Folding DNA into Twisted and Curved Nanoscale Shapes”, including a wireframe beach ball and square-toothed gears. This follows close behind their first, ground-breaking publication on the topic: “Self-assembly of DNA into nanoscale three-dimensional shapes”.
- Finally, stepping away from the world of structures and DNA, C&E News reports on continued expansion and progress in siRNA research for medical applications. Small interfering RNA molecules are one of nature’s ways to temporarily (~ 1 month) turn off the expression of particular genes, with a host of potential biomedical medical applications. The problem is delivering the molecules to specific cells. The solutions being pursued are based chiefly on lipid nanoparticles and various clever macromolecular packages. Note that turning off the expression of some genes can activate others. Pharmaceutical companies are ramping up research.