3D nanoscopic objects made from strands of DNA, “just like LEGO”

Publié le 18 Dec, 2017

In the Nature journal, an Inserm scientist [1] in conjunction with Harvard University announced the creation of   nanoscopic objects[2] from four DNA bases, namely A, T, C and G, fitting them together like LEGO®. We therefore “have the creation of new tools, consistent with the size of our cells,” at our fingertips“.


The purpose of DNA-based nanotechnology research, which is “a less well known area of research“, is to “model living matter” in order to create a “therapeutic tool on a scale compatible with that of the human cell“. The so-called “DNA LEGO block” technology, which appeared in 2012, has so far been restricted to “only a thousand databases“, which do not programme a sufficient number of DNA sequences to arrive at a more complex genome. The study published in the Nature journal exposes the creation of a genome equivalent to that of a bacterium with “a million DNA bases“.


The technique involves assembling the four bases of a DNA strand in a given form. The form is chosen “from a 3D design database”, then the “voxels”[3] are “translated into DNA blocks via a computer programme designed by scientists and known as Nanobricks“. This programme codes DNA by indicating the order of the 52 bases[4]. “This stage determines the way in which the 30,000 initial strands interlock with each other to create one single, final 3D structure,”explains Gaétan Bellot, Inserm scientist and co-author of these studies.


The patterns are then “ synthesised in the laboratory and combined in a tube“. Following a process of heating and cooling, “the molecules spontaneously withdraw from each other and take on a final form according to the desired 3D model“.


The study authors are particularly impressed by the rapidity of the process, which takes only “a few hours“. Furthermore, these “nanotubes ” are “biocompatible” and are easily “eliminated in the human body or the environment“. ” However, even if the DNA molecules used are synthetic and therefore not biologically active, a potential interaction with endogenous DNA present in living organisms cannot be ruled out.



[1] From the Institute for functional genomics (Inserm/CNRS/University of Montpellier).

[2] 10-9 m.

[3] A voxel: derived from “volume” and “element” to refer to a 3D pixel.

[4] This is based on the existence of bricks with each one comprising 52 DNA bases. One of the properties of DNA is based on the fact that the nucleic bases of a DNA strand (A, T, C or G) can interact with those of another strand by always pairing up in the same way, for instance base A with T and base C with G. Like Lego® bricks, all these units have the same general form but the order of the 52 bases determines which bricks will pair up and at what level.


Inserm (06/12/2017)

Photo : Pixabay

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