Creating a genetic program to crinkle DNA into the perfect shape can appear to be a scientific stunt. But DNA origami is more than a molecular magic trick. In this excerpt from a 2007 TED lecture, Paul Rothemund describes the science behind the work– how a chain– based on its sequence– becomes a two-dimensional shape.
But this work isn’t all fun and smiley-faces– as an article in today’s New York Times about tiny transistors points out:
I.B.M. is also exploring higher-risk ideas like “DNA origami,” a process developed by Paul W. K. Rothemund, a computer scientist at the California Institute of Technology.
The technique involves creating arbitrary two- and three-dimensional shapes by controlling the folding of a long single strand of viral DNA with multiple smaller “staple” strands. It is possible to form everything from nanometer-scale triangles and squares to more elaborate shapes like smiley faces and a rough map of North America. That could one day lead to an application in which such DNA shapes could be used to create a scaffolding just as wooden molds are now used to create concrete structures. The DNA shapes, for example, could be used to more precisely locate the gold nanoparticles that would then be used to grow nanowires. The DNA would be used only to align the circuits and would be destroyed by the high temperatures used by the chip-making processes.
The DNA transistor mold– what a cool nanoscale idea: build the shape, pour your circuit and destroy the mold when you’re done.
P.S.: my earlier origami post from May– in case you missed it.