Harvard researchers have successfully developed three-dimensional DNA “bricks” from 32 nucleotide DNA strands[fn]http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpressrelease/101/[/fn]. Each strand has 8 nucleotide binding ends that are able to hybridize with other bricks to form nanostructures and nanomachines. The bricks are 2.5 by 2.5 by 2.7 nanometers in dimension, and can self-assemble into discreet structures that have hollows, tunnels, and angles such as the examples in the photo above.
The bricks are made by hybridizing individual strands of DNA under controlled physical conditions to create one of 102 distinct shapes. These shapes can then be “programmed to assemble into one of these 102 structures. These structures or other structures developed in the future can then be used for biomolecular sensing, assembled into machines to perform specific jobs or organized to produce bioengineered systems.
One can add or remove each brick independently of one another much in the manner one could build a structure with a set of LEGOS. Each structure is formed in a one-step annealing process by using a buffer enriched with magnesium. The blocks can be used in a number of applications including drug delivery vehicles, medical devices, and advanced electronics.
This method of making biomolecular nanostructures allows three-dimensional DNA architecture to be self-assembled from strands of selectively hybridizing DNA and RNA.
Like other synthesized strands of DNA, there is a risk that they can incorporate with living organisms if released into an uncontrolled environment. Although unlikely to self-replicate or hybridize in an uncontrolled environment, damage to DNA could be possible should the synthesized DNA incorporate with a living organisms DNA. Essentially, the DNA could cause genetic damage, but will not likely cause genetic mutation. This could pose potential human health and ecological risks as well as risks to the human condition.