Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

RNA Could Form Building Blocks for Nanomachines

13.08.2004


Microscopic scaffolding to house the tiny components of nanotech devices could be built from RNA, the same substance that shuttles messages around a cell’s nucleus, reports a Purdue University research group.



By encouraging ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules to self-assemble into 3-D shapes resembling spirals, triangles, rods and hairpins, the group has found what could be a method of constructing lattices on which to build complex microscopic machines. From such RNA blocks, the group has already constructed arrays that are several micrometers in diameter - still microscopically small, but exciting because manipulating controllable structures of this size from nanoparticles is one of nanotechnology’s main goals.

"Our work shows that we can control the construction of three-dimensional arrays made from RNA blocks of different shapes and sizes," said Peixuan Guo, who is a professor of molecular virology in Purdue’s School of Veterinary Medicine. "With further research, RNA could form the superstructures for tomorrow’s nanomachines."


The paper, which Guo co-authored with Dan Shu, Wulf-Dieter Moll, Zhaoxiang Deng and Chengde Mao, all of Purdue, appears in the August issue of the journal Nano Letters.

Nanotechnologists, like those in Guo’s group, hope to build microscopic devices with sizes that are best measured in nanometers - or billionths of a meter. Because nature routinely creates nano-sized structures for living things, many researchers are turning to biology for their inspiration and construction tools.

"Biology builds beautiful nanoscale structures, and we’d like to borrow some of them for nanotechnology," Guo said. "The trouble is, when we’re working with such tiny blocks, we are short of tiny steam shovels to push them around. So we need to design and construct materials that can assemble themselves."

Organisms are built in large part of three main types of building blocks: proteins, DNA and RNA. Of the three, perhaps least investigated and understood is RNA, a molecular cousin to the DNA that stores genetic blueprints within our cells’ nuclei. RNA typically receives less attention than other substances from many nanotechnologists, but Guo said the molecule has distinct advantages.

"RNA combines the advantages of both DNA and proteins and puts them at the nanotechnologist’s disposal," Guo said. "It forms versatile structures that are also easy to produce, manipulate and engineer."

Since his discovery of a novel RNA that plays a vital role in a microscopic "motor" used by the bacterial virus phi29 (see related story), Guo has continued to study the structure of this RNA molecule for years. It formed the "pistons" of a tiny motor his lab created several years ago, and members of the team collaborated previously to build dimers and trimers - molecules formed from two and three RNA strands, respectively. Guo said the methods the team used in the past made their recent, more comprehensive construction work possible.

"By designing sets of matching RNA molecules, we can program RNA building blocks to bind to each other in precisely defined ways," he said. "We can get them to form the nano-shapes we want."

From the small shapes that RNA can form - hoops, triangles and so forth - larger, more elaborate structures can in turn be constructed, such as rods gathered into spindly, many-pronged bundles. These structures could theoretically form the scaffolding on which other components, such as nano-sized transistors, wires or sensors, could be mounted.

"Because these RNA structures can be engineered to put themselves together, they could be useful to industrial and medical specialists, who will appreciate their ease of engineering and handling," said Dieter Moll, a postdoctoral researcher in Guo’s lab. "Self-assembly means cost-effective."

Moll, while bullish on RNA’s prospects, cautioned that there was more work to be done before nanoscale models could be built at will.

"One of our main concerns right now is that, over time, RNA tends to degrade biologically," he said. "We are already working on ways to make it more resistant to degradation so that it can form long-lasting structures."

Guo said that though applications might be many years away, it would be most productive to take the long-term approach.

"We have not built actual scaffolds yet, just 3-D arrays," he said. "But we have built them from engineered biological molecules, and that could help us bridge the gap between the living and the nonliving world. If nanotech devices can eventually be built from both organic and inorganic materials, it would ease their use in both medical and industrial settings, which could multiply their usefulness considerably."

This research was sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. Moll’s postdoctoral research is funded by the Austrian Science Fund’s Erwin Schroedinger Fellowship.

Guo is affiliated with Purdue’s Cancer Center and Birck Nanotechnology Center. The Cancer Center, one of just eight National Cancer Institute-designated basic research facilities in the United States, attempts to help cancer patients by identifying new molecular targets and designing future agents and drugs for effectively detecting and treating cancer.

The Birck Nanotechnology Center is located in Purdue’s new Discovery Park, located on the southwestern edge of campus. Programs include undergraduate teaching, graduate research and technology transfer initiatives with industry partners. Scientists in biology, chemistry, physics and several engineering disciplines participate in the research.

| newswise
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu
http://discoverypark.e-enterprise.purdue.edu/wps/portal/.cmd/cs/.ce/155/.s/4270/_s.155/4270

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht In focus: Peptides, the “little brothers and sisters” of proteins
12.11.2018 | Technische Universität Berlin

nachricht How to produce fluorescent nanoparticles for medical applications in a nuclear reactor
09.11.2018 | Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences (IOCB Prague)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

Im Focus: Nanorobots propel through the eye

Scientists developed specially coated nanometer-sized vehicles that can be actively moved through dense tissue like the vitreous of the eye. So far, the transport of nano-vehicles has only been demonstrated in model systems or biological fluids, but not in real tissue. The work was published in the journal Science Advances and constitutes one step further towards nanorobots becoming minimally-invasive tools for precisely delivering medicine to where it is needed.

Researchers of the “Micro, Nano and Molecular Systems” Lab at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, together with an international...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Peptides, the “little brothers and sisters” of proteins

12.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Materials scientist creates fabric alternative to batteries for wearable devices

12.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

A two-atom quantum duet

12.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>