Korean scientists have developed a new method to build nanostructures within 10 minutes using DNA. A research team led by Professor Yoon Tae-young of the Physics Department of KAIST announced on Dec. 29 that they have developed technology to observe the real-time formation of DNA nanostructures using magnetic tweezers.
DNA origami, which was developed in 2006, is the folding of a number of shorter “stapler” DNA strands to create DNA nanostructures with an arbitrary shape. It is needed to repeat the process of heat treatment, which takes dozens of hours in order to find optimal conditions.
The research team took a step forward from this study and succeeded in creating DNA nanostructures within 10 minutes while adding mechanical tension to DNA molecules by using unimolecular magnetic tweezers.
The existing technology unwound the inner structure of long backbone DNA chains by heating. However, the research team attached one side of long backbone DNA chains to the surface of glass and attached a magnetic material to the other side. Then, they untangled the inner structure of long backbone DNA chains using magnetic force.
Using this method, stapler DNA can stick to it within a minute, since the hidden reactive parts are exposed at room temperature, unlike with heat treatment. Once all stapler DNA sticks to it, the process removes the magnetic force. Then, the structure will fold as one backbone DNA chain joining together all the many stapler DNA chains through the process of self-assembly.
Yoon said, “In the process of the heat treatment, there are mixed DNA reactions at the same time. So, it was impossible to know what would happen at a certain temperature. However, using this method, it is possible to create DNA nanostructures and observe it at once. This technology will allow us to form more highly programmed DNA nanostructures.”
Their research findings were published online in the Dec. 3 issue of Nature Communications.