Researchers believe DNA origami could be the future of drug delivery


Researchers have presented new information on a novel variant of what is known as DNA origami that could lead to developments in biomolecular science and nanotechnology that, in turn, might become the basis for new nanoparticles used for drug delivery and cell targeting.

Writing in the journal Science, Arizona State University researcher Hao Yan, along with colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Baylor College of Medicine, outlined a new method of designing geometric forms built from DNA. Their variant is based on the technique known as DNA origami, in which the base-pairing properties of DNA are used for the construction of minute structures in two and three dimensions.

“An important challenge in the field of DNA nanotechnology is to design any desirable structures in a top-down manner, without much human input concerning details of DNA strand folding paths,” Yan said, in an interview with ASU Now.

Yan, along with his MIT collaborators led by Mark Bathe, was able to develop a computer algorithm that designs DNA nanostructures by only inputting a target shape. A software platform was developed that can compute and output the necessary DNA strands to form designer architectures. Those structures were then systematically characterized and confirmed experimentally at ASU, MIT and Baylor.

The team was able to build useful structures as small as one-billionth of a meter, which is about the size of a sugar molecule. Specialized imaging techniques, including atomic force- and cryo-electron microscopy, allow the researchers to see the resulting forms.

With such a simplified technique, the researchers believe they can expand the range of possible applications in biomolecular science and nanotechnology.

Additional experiments by the group confirmed that the DNA structures they produced were potentially suitable for biological applications and displayed long-term stability in serum and low-salt conditions. The research could open the way for the development of designed nanoscale systems that mimic the properties of viruses, photosynthetic organisms and other sophisticated products of natural evolution.

- check out the ASU Now article