The 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
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
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