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MIT Researchers Create Program That Can Create 2D Nanostructures Using DNA

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MIT and Arizona State University researchers designed a unique computer program that allowed non-technical users to create 2D nanostructures using DNA. The new program can transform a free-form design into DNA structures for applications across various fields.   ( Hyungmin Jun | MIT News )

A free-form 2D drawing can be created on any drawing program and converted into a CAD file for the DNA design program to work on it. 

Until now, designing these DNA structures required technical proficiency, making the process inaccessible to most people. However, with the development of this program, one is able to create fully customizable, high-resolution nanostructures with improved precision. These nanostructures are useful in numerous fields such as cell biology, quantum sensing, photonics, among others. 

Empowering The Industries With DNA Origami

"What this work does is allow anyone to draw literally any 2D shape and convert it into DNA origami automatically," says Mark Bathe, an associate professor of biological engineering at MIT and the senior author of the study.

Before the development of this program, experts used a complex manual design to create three-dimensional DNA structures. However, Bathe and his colleagues simplified the process by designing a program that can give a meaningful shape to arbitrary 2D DNA structures. To achieve this objective, the researchers used a mathematical approach to steer the DNA scaffolds through the structure to form precise shapes. 

Bathe explains that once the regular design file is converted into a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) format and fed into the DNA design program, everything is automated, just like printing, only the ink is DNA. 

The program, known as PERDIX, is available online. The researchers published their findings in Science Advances

Future Applications

Once the sequences have been developed using the program, they can be constructed into specific patterns. 

"The fact that we can design and fabricate these in a very simple way helps to solve a major bottleneck in our field," Bathe says.

He further adds that with their program, the field can now be approached by academia and wide groups of people across industries making it possible to deploy these structures for diverse applications. 

These DNA structures can also be used to arrange macromolecular protein clusters found in cells to be easily imaged using high-res cryo-electron microscopy. These microscopes help expose the tiniest details of structures.

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