We are all the products of our DNA, and in my opinion, each and every one of us is a work of art. Uniquely beautiful in our own way, from the color of our eyes, to the curve of an earlobe, to the way you walk. But while this is the way DNA is intended to work – our phenotypical expression of proteins and cells that make up the incredible you, scientists are toying with another kind of DNA ink (and, no, not tattoos!)
To achieve that, they developed a new mathematical approach to the process of routing the single-stranded scaffold through the entire structure to form the correct shape. The resulting computer program can take any free-form drawing and translate it into the DNA sequence to create that shape and into the sequences for the staple strands.
The shape can be sketched in any computer drawing program and then converted into a computer-aided design (CAD) file, which is fed into the DNA design program. “Once you have that file, everything’s automatic, much like printing, but here the ink is DNA,” Bathe says.
After the sequences are generated, the user can order them to easily fabricate the specified shape. In this paper, the researchers created shapes in which all of the edges consist of two duplexes of DNA, but they also have a working program that can utilize six duplexes per edge, which are more rigid. The corresponding software tool for 3-D polyhedra, called TALOS, is available online and will be published soon in the journal ACS Nano. The shapes, which range from 10 to 100 nanometers in size, can remain stable for weeks or months, suspended in a buffer solution.
To read more about why they want to do this – beyond any potential aesthetic reasons of painting with literal DNA strands, check out the full article. I’ll admit, the artist side of me came out fully when I started reading. What a cool way to render a drawing. Hmmm…