A new responsive material ‘glued’ together with short strands of DNA, and capable of translating thermal and chemical signals into visible physical changes, could underpin a new class of biosensors or drug delivery systems.
Having this kind of control over a material is like a ‘golden ticket’ of sensing
Lorenzo Di Michele
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a new self-assembled material, which, by changing its shape, can amplify small variations in temperature and concentration of biomolecules, making them easier to detect. The material, which consists of synthetic spheres ‘glued’ together with short strands of DNA, could be used to underpin a new class of biosensors, or form the basis for new drug delivery systems.
The interplay between the lipid spheres, called giant vesicles, and the strands of DNA produces a unique response when the material is exposed to changes in temperature. Instead of expanding when heated – as is normally the case – the material contracts, a phenomenon known as negative thermal expansion. Details are published today (7 January) in the journal Nature Communications.
In addition to its role as a carrier of genetic information, DNA is also useful for building advanced materials. Short strands of DNA, dubbed ‘sticky ends’, can be customised so that they will only bind to specific complementary sequences. This flexibility allows researchers to use DNA to drive the self-assembly of materials into specific shapes.
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