Ten years of DNA origami
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Ten years of DNA origami

We know that DNA makes people and plants and puppies. So why not robots? Could it be possible to make tiny robots out of DNA? In 2006 Paul Rothemund found a way to make all sorts of tiny shapes out of DNA, even miniature smiley faces. He called the technique DNA origami. Here’s how it works. You start with a long piece of single strand DNA, and, you fold it – just like origami – except you have to fix it in place with another tiny piece of DNA called a ‘staple strand’ and then you fold it again, and again, and again until you’ve made a shape (whether it’s a square or a circle or a smiley face). But why bother trying to build with DNA? Well, because DNA folds itself. DNA is made of four chemical bases, shown here by the four colours. The bases always pair up in the same way (green always with blue, red always with yellow) ‘til the two strands line up to form a double helix. So if you make a staple strand with the right pattern of bases it will bind to the single strand piece of DNA automatically. The more staple strands you add, the more stable the structure. If you get a computer to design the DNA, so that it matches up in all the right places, all you have to do is mix the long strand and the short staples together, and the shape folds itself. The first DNA origami creations were all flat shapes. But other DNA nanotechnology groups soon started to develop three dimensional structures. Over the last ten years even more complex shapes have been created. Even DNA bunnies! In 2009, Danish researchers designed a box that can open to release drug molecules. They even fixed a locking mechanism onto the lid: a molecule that acts as a sensor and could detect things like cancer cells to make sure drugs are released in the right place. Scientists are developing DNA structures whose movements can be precisely controlled. And if you combine this machinery with things like sensors and circuits, you’re well on the way to a nano–robot… all made from DNA!

24 thoughts on “Ten years of DNA origami

  1. Oh nos. This is either the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of the human race and it's current level of evolution. He is to hoping we evolve with this tech and not weaponize it.

  2. Is there any possibility that this created DNA structure can do harm to your body by interact with one's original DNA?

  3. First I thought what is (or who is) the donor for that DNA? then it stated on paper "To test the method, circular genomic DNA from the virus M13mp18 was chosen as the scaffold."
    Well, imagine the future : we could make chicken DNA from scratch (like from virus donor). well, maybe the term "robot" and "nature" would not so much different then at that time.

  4. the necklase chain (which presents the ssDNA) is still moving after fixation with the staples … It does not work that way. The staples only bind to specific regions. That paper-chain presents the (ssDNA and the staples) better. But usually the staples bind to around 3 bases on both sides and not just one base.

  5. Amazing video!!!! So simply described such an incredibly difficult and breathtaking topic! Thanks to creators for that! 🙂

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