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Nature inspires DNA/protein


A new generation of nanoscale devices are being developed based on inspiration found in nature. Grazyna Sroga, a postdoctoral researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is using DNA and related proteins to construct microscopic structures that may one day conduct electricity, deliver drugs, boost computer memory, or sense the presence or absence of chemicals. She is working in the laboratory of Jonathan S. Dordick, the Howard P. Isermann ’42 professor of chemical engineering.

Sroga is presenting her research at the 225th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, held March 23-27 in New Orleans, La.

Taking Advantage of Years of Evolution

Dordick and Sroga use a combination of hybrid proteins to manipulate normally linear DNA strands into unusual shapes, including three-dimensional cubes. These new shapes can then be encouraged to self-assemble based on molecular interactions. The ability of these bio-inspired nanostructures to spontaneously assemble saves researchers’ time and effort, representing an advantage over other approaches to nanoproduction that do not utilize biologic materials.

This research (funded by the Biotech Research and Development Corporation and the National Science Foundation, through Rensselaer’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center) is still in its infancy. Constructing new devices based on biological models, however, may mean that potential pitfalls have already been worked out over years of natural evolution. When it comes to design, "it is likely that nature does it better," says Sroga. Tools constructed of hybrid biomaterials, for example, may be hypoallergenic, making medical application of such devices less likely to lead to rejection by the body’s systems.

About Nanotechnology at Rensselaer
In September 2001, the National Science Foundation (NSF) selected Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as one of six sites nationwide for a new Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC). Center researchers are part of a high-priority national effort to work at the atomic and molecular level to alter the most basic structure of materials. The mission of the center is to integrate research, education, and technology dissemination, and serve as a national resource for fundamental knowledge and applications in the directed assembly of nanostructures. The center’s goals include discovering novel pathways to assemble functional multiscale nanostructures, exciting and educating students of all ages in nanoscale science and engineering, and working hand-in-hand with industry to develop nanotechnology for the benefit of society.

About Rensselaer
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation’s oldest technological university. The school offers degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty members are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of research centers that are characterized by strong industry partnerships. The Institute is especially well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.

CONTACT: Jonathan Dordick 518-276-2899;
Grazyna Sroga 518-276-2811;

CONTACT (During the ACS Meeting): The ACS press room 504-586-4650 (Morial Convention Center, room 280)

Joely Johnson | EurekAlert!

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