DNA Origami Flash Game

i-1cecc8a860beeb1f541fad5a54a65e1a-DNAsmileys-thumb-200x200-39410.jpgMost synthetic biologists and biological engineers (and basically everyone else) think of DNA as code, simply carrying the information to make the RNA and proteins that do the real work inside the cell. In the past few years, a small group of biological engineers have used DNA instead as a physical substrate, a programmable nanomaterial to build all kinds of tiny shapes with (even smiley faces). The shapes that the DNA folds into depend on the sequence, which controls how different strands match up to each other and bend. For a great introduction to building shapes out of DNA in 2D and 3D check out posts from the archives of The Scientific Activist and Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering (which my lab is a part of) are working towards moving the technology forward from fun shapes to useful medical technologies. The programmable nanomaterials group aims to make nano-scale 3D shapes that can carry drugs into cells or micro-scale matrices to grow cells on for advanced tissue engineering. The Wyss Institute has also released a fun little flash game so you can explore how DNA nanostructures self-assemble. You can start from preset shapes and watch them fold or design your own by placing "staples" onto the strand of DNA. What kind of shapes can you build?

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It comes to mind Fold.it, the flash game for protein folding released more or less one year ago. Congratulations for the new house, keep good blogging.