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DNA Origami

New algorithm makes it easier to build nanostructures.

For several years, scientists have been able to perform origami with strands of DNA, building structures for pursuits such as drug delivery. But the application has not been widely used because of the labor-intensive process of designing the nanometer-scale structures by hand.

Researchers at MIT led by Mark Bathe, an associate professor of biological engineering, have now automated the process of DNA origami. According to an article published in MIT News, the DAEDALUS algorithm “starts with a simple, 3-D geometric representation of the final shape of the object, and then decides how it should be assembled from DNA.” In this way, explains Bathe, the object itself is the starting point, and the algorithm automatically defines which DNA sequences are needed.

Though not the first algorithm aimed at building these structures, DAEDALUS—named for the inventor in Greek mythology who designed labyrinths—offers the most completely automated solution. Similar to the way that 3-D printers have made development more accessible to people, the team hopes that the DNA origami algorithm will allow a wider variety of people to develop nanoparticles in other applications such as:

  • Vaccine scaffolding, by designing the surface with specific peptides and proteins.
  • Packaging gene-editing tools, which must be delivered to specific cells or tissues in the body. These nanoparticles may be better suited for the job than viruses, which currently deliver editing tools.
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