Saturday, May 16, 2009

More on DNA Origami

The previous post on the new DNA box induced me to dig further into the DNA scaffolding and folding called DNA Origami. 

In the technique, developed by young CalTech bioengineer and computer scientist Paul Rothemund,
pieces of  single stranded DNA are folded to make shapes of interest. 

This is done with single-stranded DNA "staples" that uniquely identify a piece of viral DNA and the binds to an adjoining piece with equal specificity. With detailed knowledge of the original DNA sequence and access to a machine that makes short DNA strands to your specification, one can make DNA sheets like making macram√© from yarn.  DNA origami uses more fundamental DNA folding motifs developed by Ned Seeman of NYU.

This is a clever nanoengineering technique made possible by the unique specificity of the Watson-Crick base-pair bonding of DNA.

While pharmacologists are interested in studying native DNA or using it to influence biological processes, computer scientists are interested in using it as a substrate for novel information storage and computing systems. Rothemund was more interested in using DNA to make tiny maps and letters than in making structures. Obviously no one will ever read letters that are 2% the wavelength of light, at least not using their eyes.