DNA supports nanostructures

Leicester University research will study the use of DNA strands as self-assembling scaffolds to hold nanoscopic components in place

A LeicesterUniversity researcher has been awarded a grant to study the use of DNA strands as self-assembling scaffolds to hold nanoscopic components in place for technology processes and medicine.

Dr Glenn Burley was awarded a £922,000 Advanced Research Fellowships in Chemistry grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Burley said: ‘Astonishingly, strands of DNA can be programmed to self-assemble into complex arrangements.

‘DNA scaffolds made in this way could be used to hold molecule size electronic devices or be used to build materials with precise configurations.

‘By altering parts of their structure from one conformation to another, DNA can even be used as a machine’ said Burley. ‘It’s amazing that nature’s hard drive can be so versatile. The real challenge now is to harness the potential of DNA in nanotechnology. If we can achieve this, then it will enable us to build devices much smaller than can be achieved with today’s technology.’

According to Burley, near future devices will contain DNA components alongside traditional electronic components. Other benefits of this technology include reduced cost of device construction and the potential for use in the early diagnosis of genetic diseases.

‘We could use the technology to devise new methods of constructing DNA chips that can be used to predict whether a person will be predisposed to a particular disease,’ he said.

‘It is feasible that by the end of this fellowship, we could be in a position to start thinking about a start up company. So the commercialisation timeframe is in the region of five years.’