DNA molecules are not merely carriers of information. They are also highly stable and programmable, which is why researchers have been working so feverishly on a design strategy called DNA origami.
And now a team at MIT is developing a program that makes the game playable by more than just a select few.
DNA origami--constructing specific 2D and 3D shapes out of DNA strands--could prove to be a highly effective means of developing nanoscale tools, such as synthetic photocells that perform artificial photosynthesis and highly targeted drugs (think of sending a cancer drug to hunt down a specific tumor).
But it's still young. Paul Rothemund of CalTech first introduced DNA origami in 2006 (thereby making the cover of Nature and delivering a TED Talk showing tiny DNA smiley faces), and William Shih's lab at Harvard Medical School was able to up the game from 2D to 3D a few years later.
The result is that today a small number of brilliant and highly specialized minds are bent over a nanoscale game of origami, playing with various sequences to try to build specific shapes for specific tasks. Imagine a room of highly sophisticated gamers playing with building blocks in a world without Tetris; if they had the game, they'd be able to work faster.… Read more