A scanning electron microscope photo of a self-assembled DNA buckyball.
DNA strands designed with complementary sequences of bases will bind to one another to form Y-shaped structures that can be extended to form "dendrimerlike" (i.e., treelike) forms.
DNA isn’t just for storing genetic codes any more. Since DNA can polymerize -- linking many molecules together into larger structures -- scientists have been using it as a nanoscale building material, constructing geometric shapes and even working mechanical devices.
Now Cornell University researchers have made DNA buckyballs -- tiny geodesic spheres that could be used for drug delivery and as containers for chemical reactions.
The term "buckyballs" has been used up to now for tiny spherical assemblies of carbon atoms known as Buckminsterfullerenes or just fullerenes. Under the right conditions, carbon atoms can link up into hexagons and pentagons, which in turn assemble into spherical shapes (technically truncated icosahedrons) resembling the geodesic domes designed by the architect-engineer Buckminster Fuller. Instead of carbon, the Cornell researchers are making buckyballs out of a specially prepared, branched DNA-polystyrene hybrid. The hybrid molecules spontaneously self-assemble into hollow balls about 400 nanometers (nm) in diameter. The DNA/polystyrene "rods" forming the structure are each about 15 nm long. (While still on the nanoscale, the DNA spheres are much larger than carbon buckyballs, which are typically around 7 nm in diameter.)
Blaine Friedlander | EurekAlert!
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