Making Nanowires from Protein and DNA

Fig4-Mayo-Mao-CP-NEWS-WEBThe ability to custom design biological materials such as protein and DNA opens up technological possibilities that were unimaginable just a few decades ago. For example, synthetic structures made of DNA could one day be used to deliver cancer drugs directly to tumor cells, and customized proteins could be designed to specifically attack a certain kind of virus. Although researchers have already made such structures out of DNA or protein alone, a Caltech team recently created—for the first time—a synthetic structure made of both protein and DNA. Combining the two molecule types into one biomaterial opens the door to numerous applications.

A paper describing the so-called hybridized, or multiple component, materials appears in the September 2 issue of the journal Nature.

There are many advantages to multiple component materials, says Yun (Kurt) Mou (PhD ’15), first author of the Nature study. “If your material is made up of several different kinds of components, it can have more functionality. For example, protein is very versatile; it can be used for many things, such as protein–protein interactions or as an enzyme to speed up a reaction. And DNA is easily programmed into nanostructures of a variety of sizes and shapes.”

But how do you begin to create something like a protein–DNA nanowire—a material that no one has seen before?

Mou and his colleagues in the laboratory of Stephen Mayo, Bren Professor of Biology and Chemistry and the William K. Bowes Jr. Leadership Chair of Caltech’s Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, began with a computer program to design the type of protein and DNA that would work best as part of their hybrid material. “Materials can be formed using just a trial-and-error method of combining things to see what results, but it’s better and more efficient if you can first predict what the structure is like and then design a protein to form that kind of material,” he says.

The researchers entered the properties of the protein–DNA nanowire they wanted into a computer program developed in the lab; the program then generated a sequence of amino acids (protein building blocks) and nitrogenous bases (DNA building blocks) that would produce the desired material. Rest

UNC/Duke/NCSU collaboration could lead to next nano Eureka

A nanobot among red blood cells

A nanorobot among red blood cells. Nanotechnology could pave the way for revolutionary health care. YURIJ VERSHININ

Major research universities like those in the Triangle own some of the world’s most advanced technologies. In a new partnership, Duke University, N.C. State University and UNC-Chapel Hill will make some of that technology and equipment available to businesses and the public at large.
Already, the universities and resources in Research Triangle Park have sparked a technology ecosystem with successful startups. Now, with the help of a five-year, $5.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, N.C. State, Duke, and UNC are launching a new partnership called the Research Triangle Nanotechnology Network (RTNN) which opens their doors to nanotechnology facilities, expertise and educational opportunities to businesses and educators.
“The grant will fund efforts to open our doors and work more effectively with the public, from major corporations and startups to community colleges and K-12 educators,” says Jacob Jones, a professor of materials science and engineering at N.C. State and principal investigator of the grant. Rest

Threading the CRISPR Needle with DNA Nanoclews

Advances in genome editing seem to be happening almost every other day. However, many groups are focused on improving the efficacy of Cas9 target recognition and cleavage—an important criterion for sure—while neglecting the development of efficient delivery methods.

Now a team of researchers from North Carolina State University (NC State) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) have created and utilized a nanoscale vehicle composed of DNA to deliver the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing complex into cells both in vitro and in vivo.

“Traditionally, researchers deliver DNA into a targeted cell to make the CRISPR RNA and Cas9 inside the cell itself—but that limits control over its dosage,” explained co-senior author Chase Beisel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State. “By directly delivering the Cas9 protein itself, instead of turning the cell into a Cas9 factory, we can ensure that the cell receives the active editing system and can reduce problems with unintended editing.”

The findings from this study were published recently in Angewandte Chemie through an article entitled “Self-Assembled DNA Nanoclews for the Efficient Delivery of CRISPR-Cas9 for Genome Editing.” Rest

Advancing Nanoparticle Manufacturing

ANM_workshop_logo_A_RVSDFollowing decades of research and development, commercial products enabled by nanoparticles are poised to have broad impact in diverse sectors of the global economy, ranging from electronics to healthcare to energy. However, applications of nanoparticles have been limited by challenges at all stages of the manufacturing process, from production and purification, to characterization and integration of nanoparticles into products. Advancing Nanoparticle Manufacturing will gather experts from industrial, governmental, and academic sectors to discuss these technical challenges, as well as application forecasts, market insights, and inter-sector collaborations. Through this discussion, this NIST Workshop aims to develop a better understanding of the challenges currently limiting the manufacturing of nanoscale particles, rods, and tubes in the liquid phase, and thus inform future innovations advancing beyond these limits. The CNST is holding Advancing Nanoparticle Manufacturing under the auspices of the NIST Nanomanufacturing Initiative.


Start Date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015
End Date: Thursday, October 8, 2015
Location: NIST, Gaithersburg, Maryland, Building 215, Room C103 – 106
Audience: Industry, Government, Academia
Format: Workshop

More info

DNA Nanotechnology Expert

Parabon NanoLabs is a vertically integrated DNA technology company that develops next-generation therapeutic and forensic products, which leverage the enormous power of DNA. Staffed by a uniquely qualified team of scientists and technologists, with expertise ranging from bioinformatics and oncology to chemistry and computer science, the Company is bringing to market revolutionary new products and services made possible by recent advances in DNA sequencing, processing and manufacturing technologies.

The Company is recruiting a Research Scientist with a high degree of patience, focus, accuracy and attention to detail to support expansion of both its R&D and commercial activities at its Huntington, West Virginia facility.

The position will have the following responsibilities:  Link to rest of job listing

DARPA on gut patrol

As any tourist who’s ever gotten a case of “traveler’s tummy” knows, venturing to foreign countries can sometimes be a little tough on the digestive system. But tourists aren’t the only ones who visit foreign lands — members of the military do as well. That’s why the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has given the Wyss Institute $4.7 million to develop a squadron of genetically engineered bacteria that will be able to identify, report on and attack harmful bugs in our gastrointestinal tracts.

Researchers at the institute, an alliance between various Harvard schools, plus other universities and medical centers, will be using the funds to create synthetic bacteria that will be able to detect inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The bacteria will be taken in pill form. Link

Optogenetics Meets CRISPR

The CRISPR gene-editing system just got even better: a new light-activated Cas9 nuclease could offer researchers greater spatial and temporal control over the RNA-guided nuclease activity, according to a study published today (June 15) in Nature Biotechnology.

“This is an effective new system for extremely precise control of gene editing via light,” Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell biologist at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the research, told The Scientist in an e-mail. “Any technological advancement that can add in the precision and control of genetic modification is an important advance,” he added, noting that “this is one of many such efforts.”  Rest

NNI Report Assessing the Status of EHS Risk Science

Report examines progress three years after the release of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy

(March 21, 2015) The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) today published the report from the workshop, “Stakeholder Perspectives on Perception, Assessment, and Management of the Potential Risks of Nanotechnology” (R3 Workshop), which was held September 10-11, 2013, in Washington, D.C. The goal of the workshop was to assess the status of nanotechnology environmental, health, and safety (EHS) risk science three years after the development of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy and to identify the tools and best practices used by risk assessors to address the implications of nanotechnology. A wide range of stakeholders including Federal and State regulators, small and large businesses, insurance companies, academic researchers, occupational safety specialists, and public and environmental advocacy groups shared their perspectives on the risk management process; discussed strategies and approaches for improving risk science methods; and examined ways that NNI agencies can assist stakeholders in the responsible development of nanotechnology.

Stakeholders participating in the workshop presented their perspectives and methods used to assess and manage the potential risks of nanotechnology. Research presented at the workshop shows that technical risk data alone will not enable decisions; risk evaluations by different stakeholders with varying biases, values, and stances can affect the perceptions and behaviors (e.g., investment or personal safety decisions) of consumers, regulators, developers, manufacturers, and insurers.

Following a robust dialogue among participants, including a variety of stakeholder perspectives, participants identified needs in four areas. (The following list is not prioritized):

  • Communication Resources, including improved transparency in reporting the presence of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) and continued collaboration among diverse stakeholder groups.
  • Decision Tools, such as improved detection and characterization tools; improved methods for assessing both actual exposure to and potential risk from ENMs; tools to address nanotechnology-related environmental, health, and safety (“nanoEHS”) issues sooner in the product life cycle.
  • Data Resources, such as repositories or databases to facilitate access to or organization of existing information on nanoEHS; methods for accessing and investigating potentially protected information; and continued toxicology studies on the effects of ENMs.
  • Standards and Guidance Resources, in order to facilitate navigation of nanotechnology-enabled applications through the regulatory process and improved data quality and methods for reporting data used in nanomaterial risk assessment.

To view the full report, please visit

Media Contact: Marlowe Newman, or 703-292-7128