|Posted: Jul 07, 2016|
Researchers harness DNA as the engine of super-efficient nanomachine(Nanowerk News) Researchers at McMaster University have established a way to harness DNA as the engine of a microscopic "machine" they can turn on to detect trace amounts of substances that range from viruses and bacteria to cocaine and metals.
|"It's a completely new platform that can be adapted to many kinds of uses," says John Brennan, director of McMaster's Biointerfaces Insitute and co-author of a paper in the journal Nature Communications that describes the technology. "These DNA nano-architectures are adaptable, so that any target should be detectable."|
|DNA is best known as a genetic material, but is also a very programmable molecule that lends itself to engineering for synthetic applications.|
|The new method shapes separately programmed pieces of DNA material into pairs of interlocking circles.|
|The first remains inactive until it is released by the second, like a bicycle wheel in a lock. When the second circle, acting as the lock, is exposed to even a trace of the target substance, it opens, freeing the first circle of DNA, which replicates quickly and creates a signal, such as a colour change.|
|"The key is that it's selectively triggered by whatever we want to detect," says Brennan, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry and Biointerfaces. "We have essentially taken a piece of DNA and forced it to do something it was never designed to do. We can design the lock to be specific to a certain key. All the parts are made of DNA, and ultimately that key is defined by how we build it."|
|The idea for the "DNA nanomachine" comes from nature itself, explains co-author Yingfu Li, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Nucleic Acids Research.|
|"Biology uses all kinds of nanoscale molecular machines to achieve important functions in cells," Li says. "For the first time, we have designed a DNA-based nano-machine that is capable of achieving ultra-sensitive detection of a bacterial pathogen."|
|The DNA-based nanomachine is being further developed into a user-friendly detection kit that will enable rapid testing of a variety of substances, and could move to clinical testing within a year.|
|Source: McMaster University|
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