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Let's Twist Again

High resolution analysis of DNA origami nanostructures

21 January 2021

Let's Twist Again

As if holding the instructions for life wasn’t enough, DNA is also a handy building material. Yet while nanotechnologists are taking creative steps with DNA origami – designing DNA structures which fold into tiny machines after a squirt of chemicals or blast of a laser – sometimes the results are unexpected. Using a combination of cryogenic electron microscopy and computer modelling, scientists inspect these tiny structures in greater detail, spotting flaws, or useful features they can work into future, refined designs. Here the new approaches simulate the dynamics of twisting DNA strands (grey) bunched together by shorter DNA 'staples' (bright colours) creating various shapes and bundles. The increased detail allows structural wobbles like those in the ‘twisttower’ (left) to be corrected, balancing forces to make the shape more stable for creating useful tiny structures, which may one day shuttling drugs around the human body.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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