Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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DNA does yoga

These are models of twisted and curved DNA-origami nanostructures.
[Rendering in Autodesk Maya by Hendrik Dietz]

Researchers have figured out how to make DNA bend and twist into a variety of new shapes. These curvy new molecules could someday be used to build nanoscale devices smaller than the width of a human hair -- for delivering drugs inside the body, growing new tissues or studying single proteins.

The exciting thing about this research is that it gives scientists a way to make nanoscale objects with curving surfaces. For comparison, imagine if we could not make the curved objects we see in daily life we'd have no wheels, arches, hooks, etc. This is the same kind of limitation nanotechnology researchers have been facing.

Hendrik Dietz of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School and colleagues now describe a way to make continuously curving nanoscale shapes. They designed bundles of DNA strands, arranged in a honeycomb lattice (somewhat like a nanosized piece of Twizzlers candy).

By adding extra DNA "letters" to some strands and removing them from others, the researchers created stresses that helped the bundles assemble into shapes that could twist and bend sharply. By combining differently shaped DNA molecules, the researchers built complex shapes such as gears and beachballs, which they describe in the 7 August issue of the journal Science.