In Rothemund’s method, a long strand of DNA snakes back and forth until it forms a desired shape. The key to getting the DNA to form this way, and to holding it in place, are short “staples” of DNA with sequences chosen to attach to specific parts of the long strand. Rothemund divides the long strand into sections; then a staple might attach to sections 86 and 112, for example, bringing them together and causing the long strand to fold. A couple of hundred unique staples can fold the DNA into just the right shape.
1. A computer program takes care of identifying the sequences the staples (which will hold together the structure) needs to have.
2. The desired structure is designed on the computer. It spits out a set of 250 DNA sequences.
3. They are ordered online. The sequences come in the mail in a bunch of little tubes.
4. You mix them together along with the long strand of DNA, add some salt, heat it up to boiling and cool it down to about room temperature, and then it’s done.
Once mixed together, the strands of DNA assemble themselves into the desired structure.
Such self-assembly methods can be used to make any shape or pattern measuring 100 nanometers across or less, and with features about 6 nanometers apart. Rothemund’s work has taken the small field of DNA nanotechnology and opened it up to becoming a mainstream tool by making it one or two orders of magnitude cheaper and easier to do.
Other work with DNA that could enhance DNA Origami towards more powerful DNA Nanotechnology.
Programmable DNA manipulator, Ned Seeman
Self assembled pyramids and other building blocks shaped from DNA
DNA and nanotubes
DNA wrapped nanotubes
Modifying DNA with Enzymes