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DNA origami allows for 3D-printed DNA bunnies to deliver medication

The airplane method works for getting food in young mouths, and now, the bunny method may be the best way to deliver drugs into patients’ bodies (regardless of age). Thanks to a couple particularly gifted practitioners of the “DNA origami” art form, scientists are now finding that they can fold DNA into very particular shapes by way of a 3D printing method that would help get medication to the right place without breaking down in the body. And to prove just how dexterous they were, scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden decided to create DNA bunnies using this method, because what’s a better way to demonstrate your skill as a scientist than to make a beloved childhood pet out of DNA?

In findings published in the journal Nature, scientists explained that 3D-modeling software allowed them to create DNA sequences that would automatically assemble themselves into various shapes, including but not limited to a bunny, a bottle, and a stick figure. In an interview with Tech Times, senior study author Björn Högberg said, “Controlling matter at the nanoscale is the fundamental problem of nanotechnology. If we can precisely control the arrangements of molecules at the nanoscale, there are many applications that can be envisioned.”

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The implications of this capability are even more exciting, Högberg noted, “We are attaching proteins and other biomolecules to DNA nanostructures to create devices that can be used in biological research and potentially even therapeutics.” The real groundbreaking aspect of the Swedish team’s discovery is not necessarily in the folding of DNA itself, but rather in the newfound ability to automate the process, allowing scientists to create shapes that were previously impossible to synthesize. But now, thanks to their new algorithm, scientists are able to first come up with a shape, then run the program to see what list of DNA sequences could be combined (under the right temperatures and conditions) to actually yield that particular form.

Ultimately, the ability to produce these forms means that scientists will have new ways to use DNA to deliver medicine into patients’ bodies, without worrying about the structures disintegrating in the process. The new design possibilities have “more space between the helices … (which) makes it function better in a biological environment, such as inside the human body,” said a DNA scientist who observed the study.

And at the end of the day, Högberg believes, “These structures will be a guide for developing future research, including drug delivery systems, possibly in the next 5 to 10 years.”