Origami: Not just for paper anymore

Now a team at MIT, led by biological engineer Mark Bathe, has developed software that makes it easier to predict the three-dimensional shape that will result from a given DNA template. While the software doesn't fully automate the design process, it makes it considerably easier for designers to create complex 3-D structures, controlling their flexibility and potentially their folding stability.

"We ultimately seek a design tool where you can start with a picture of the complex three-dimensional shape of interest, and the algorithm searches for optimal sequence combinations," says Bathe, the Samuel A. Goldblith Assistant Professor of Applied Biology.
"One bottleneck for making the technology more broadly useful is that only a small group of specialized researchers are trained in scaffolded DNA origami design," Bathe says.
"With DNA, at the small scale, you can program these sequences to self-assemble and fold into a very specific final structure, with separate strands brought together to make larger-scale objects," Bathe says.
"DNA is in many ways better suited to self-assembly than proteins, whose physical properties are both difficult to control and sensitive to their environment," Bathe says.

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