The DNA construction set
15th Nov 1999
German scientists have used DNA molecules like "Velcro" to stick together
microscopically tiny objects.
So far, cylinders, squares, and tetrahedra have been constructed and
the researchers hope that these will act as building blocks for tiny
machines in the future.
The work, led by Gunter von Kiedrowski, at the Ruhr University, Bochum,
exploits the DNA spiral's unerring ability to match itself up to a partner.
Mix and match
In cell nuclei, the DNA double helix is made of two separate strands
bound to each other. The strands are a long series of the four chemical
"symbols" which are used to encode life's most basic information.
The two strands exactly match one another meaning that, if they were
separated in a complex chemical mixture, they are still able to find
each other easily.
Professor von Kiedrowski's team used the DNA spiral's ability to recognise
another spiral to complete a set of microscopic building instructions.
They synthesised and separated DNA double helixes and then attached
the single strands to building materials, such as gold spheres. Then,
in solution, the DNA strands found their partners and bound together
the components they carried.
They believe the selectivity provided by the DNA pairing will allow
complex objects to be assembled. They even speculate such objects could
multiply themselves by bio-chemical methods and might be able to optimise
their operation through "artificial" evolution.
The work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International
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