Creating Nanocages With Tunable Properties From DNA

How to create nanocages, i.e., robust and stable objects with regular voids and tunable properties? Short segments of DNA molecules are perfect candidates for the controllable design of novel complex structures. Physicists from the University of Vienna, the Technical University of Vienna, the Foschungszentrum Jülich in Germany and Cornell University in the U.S.A., investigated methodologies to synthesize DNA-based dendrimers in the lab and to predict their behavior using detailed computer simulations.

Nanocages are highly interesting molecular constructs, from the point of view of both fundamental science and possible applications. The cavities of these nanometer-sized objects can be employed as carriers of smaller molecules, which is of critical importance in medicine for drug or gene delivery in living organisms. This idea brought together researchers from various interdisciplinary fields who have been investigating dendrimers as promising candidates for creating such nano-carriers. Their tree-like architecture and step-wise growth with repeating self-similar units results in dendrimers containing cavities, hollow objects with controllable design.

The researchers found a way to create dendrimers rigid enough to prevent back-folding of outer arms even in the case of high branching generations, preserving regular voids in their interior. The nanocages they created, in the lab and studied computationally are DNA-based dendrimers, or so-called, dendrimer-like DNAs (DL-DNA).

Their results are published in the journal Nanoscale.