Scientists have been working on folding DNA into nano scale shapes for a few years now. They’ve made maps of the world in 2D, spelled out “DNA”, and have recently been playing around with self assembling 3D oligonucleotide structures.
But check this out… If you’re tired of the scientific elite having all the fun with DNA Origami, you too can now get in on the action. All you need to do is download the free CAD program for DNA caDNAno, spend a few days honing up on the methods in papers like Folding DNA (pdf) and others found on the caDNAno site, knock on the door of your friend’s biology lab (or get yourself a used DNA Synthesizer on eBay), apply heat, stir, and then email your old chemistry professor and ask to use his electron microscope for a day.
DNA origami is a powerful method for constructing DNA objects. It involves taking a long, single-stranded DNA backbone (usually about 7000 bases in length) and forcing it to adopt an arbitrary shape using hundreds of short, single-stranded DNA oligonucleotides (each usually 20 to 50 bases long). This method was developed by Caltech scientist Paul Rothemundand published in the 16 March 2006 Nature cover story Folding DNA to create nanoscale shapes and patterns.
In a process that is not yet well-understood, DNA origami structures are typically assembled through a process of heat denaturation followed by gradual cooling. More details about the method can be found in various publications.
caDNAno is open-source software based on the Adobe AIR platform for design of three-dimensional DNA origaminanostructures. It was written with the goal of providing a fast and intuitive means to create and modify DNA origami designs. You can learn how to use it, download a copy of the program and some example designs, or even modify thesource code.