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Reprogramming and Printing DNA Nanostructures

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The DNA “alphabet” (A, T, G, C) is the underlying code that gives rise to the double helix structure. Developing a larger, designer alphabet of DNA bases would enhance the applications of DNA structures, but this goal requires costly and complex synthetic procedures. We will describe the discovery that small molecules can be added to unmodified DNA , to re-program its self-assembly into new and unique structures, beyond Watson-Crick-Franklin base-pairing. This is a fundamental shift in the field, as it expands the DNA code without complex synthesis. The resulting DNA structures can be applied to gene delivery, tissue regeneration and materials science.

Despite some recent advances in cost and scalability, DNA nanostructures are far from becoming readily available, commodity materials. Materials made entirely of DNA may present problems of stability and difficult cellular entry, and they may not be ideal for all biological applications. We will describe the use of DNA structures as transient templates, as opposed to permanent scaffolds: a programmed DNA pattern in the parent template can be covalently ‘printed’ onto a different material. The approach presents the distinct advantage of recycling the DNA template for high throughput, scalable generation of patterned structures. It introduces the fundamental notion that supramolecular information can be transmitted from one material to another through a chemical process.

This talk is part of the Seminars for the Institute for Energy and Environmental Flows (formerly BP Institute) series.

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