Debuting an invention that even the creative minds that design plain old plastic Lego bricks probably couldn’t have imagined, biologists announced this week that they had figured out a way to make Lego-like bricks from DNA — and to use the teeny-tiny modules to build a variety of different, often intricate, three-dimensional shapes.
Having the capability to build nanoscale structures out of DNA bricks is more than mere play: Someday it could help engineers improve medical devices for drug delivery or components for electronic circuits, among other advances, the team wrote in a study that described the new building method (abstract here), published Thursday in the journal Science.
The paper was the group’s second research document describing a DNA-based building technique in six months. The other study — explaining how senior author Peng Yin and colleagues at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering used a similar strategy to build two-dimensional shapes— was published in the journal Nature in June.
Both the 2D and 3D building methods use single strands of DNA as their basic building blocks. DNA, which stores the genetic blueprint for life, is a long, chain-like molecule composed of nucleotide bases linked together by a sugar backbone. There are four different bases, represented by the letters A, T, C and G. In the familiar double-helix, two complementary strands of DNA line up and twist together. The A bases on one strand bind to T bases on the other, and vice versa; the C bases on one strand bind to G bases on the other, and vice versa.