Science Blast: When DNA meets LEGO: Sculpting on the Nanoscale

Think back to your childhood, and there’s one thing many of us had in common: LEGOs. In fact, I challenge you to find someone who has never played with LEGO bricks in their lifetime. From houses to spaceships, the possibilities are seemingly endless with these colorful bricks. Now, think of your favorite LEGO creation, and imagine it miniaturized 4 million times, Magic School Bus style. That is what researchers at Harvard University have accomplished. Instead of using plastic pieces, Peng Yin’s team of scientists created bricks out of the building blocks of life: DNA. DNA, you may remember from high school science classes, are the molecules that make up our genetic code.

You may wonder what the purpose of these nanoscopic DNA sculptures are. Why spend time creating tiny, ‘invisible’ Teddy bears? Although the shapes created in the current study were for proof-of-concept purposes, it opens up many possibilities for the development of nanotechnologies. For example, hollow DNA boxes can be used as vehicles for administering medications. Unlike traditional methods of drug delivery, DNA can be programmed to target specific locations or cell-types in the body, and in turn minimize side-effects to the surrounding tissues. Outside of medicine, there are talks of using DNA as the building material for the next generation of nano-sized computer chips.

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