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Interfacing DNA nanodevices with biology: Challenges, solutions and perspectives

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The cellular machinery performs millions of complex reactions with extreme precision at nanoscale. From studying these reactions, scientists have become inspired to build artificial nanosized molecular devices with programmed functions. One of the fundamental tools in designing and creating these nanodevices is molecular self-assembly. In nature, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is inarguably one of the most remarkable self-assembling molecules. Governed by the Watson–Crick base-pairing rules, DNA assembles with a structural reliability and predictability based on sequence composition unlike any other complex biological polymer. This consistency has enabled rational design of hundreds of two- and three-dimensional shapes with a molecular precision and homogeneity not preceded by any other known technology at the nanometer scale.
During the last two decades, DNA nanotechnology has undergone a rapid evolution pioneered by the work of Nadrian Seeman (Kallenbach et al 1983 Nature 205 829–31). Especially the introduction of the versatile DNA Origami technique by Rothemund (2006 Nature 440 297–302) led to an efflorescence of new DNA-based self-assembled nanostructures (Andersen et al 2009 Nature 459 73–6, Douglas et al 2009 Nature 459 414–8, Dietz et al 2009 Science 325 725–30, Han et al 2011 Science 332 342–6, Iinuma et al 2014 Science 344 65–9), and variations of this technique have contributed to an increasing repertoire of DNA nanostructures (Wei et al 2012 Nature 485 623–6, Ke et al 2012 Science 338 1177–83, Benson et al 2015 Nature 523 441–4, Zhang et al 2015 Nat. Nanotechnol. 10 779–84, Scheible et al 2015 Small 11 5200–5). These advances have naturally triggered the question: What can these DNA nanostructures be used for?
One of the leading proposals of use for DNA nanotechnology has been in biology and biomedicine acting as a molecular ‘nanorobot’ or smart drug interacting with the cellular machinery. In this review, we will explore and examine the perspective of DNA nanotechnology for such use. We summarize which requirements DNA nanostructures must fulfil to function in cellular environments and inside living organisms. In addition, we highlight recent advances in interfacing DNA nanostructures with biology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number085005
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2016

    Research areas

  • DNA nanotechnology, DNA walkers, biocompatibility, biosensor, drug delivery, molecular device, targeting

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