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 Molecular motors run in unison in a metal-organic framework
20.03.2019 | University of Groningen

nachricht Active substance from plant slows down aggressive eye cancer
20.03.2019 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular motors run in unison in a metal-organic framework

20.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Active substance from plant slows down aggressive eye cancer

20.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Novel sensor system improves reliability of high-temperature humidity measurements

20.03.2019 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>