Researchers from McGill University have chemically imprinted polymer particles with DNA strands which could lead to new discoveries for biomedicine.
Published in Nature Chemistry, the researchers describe a method to create asymmetrical polymer particles that bind together in a spatially defined manner, the way that atoms come together to make molecules.
Polymers are used in a lot of things, from clothing to food packaging, electronics and 3D printing. Most polymer structures have only been symmetrical in form and usually take the shape of spheres or cylinders. Scientists are now focusing their efforts on creating non-symmetrical polymer structures with the aim of discovering new applications for soft robotics.
This new discovery “introduces a programmable level of organization that is currently difficult to attain in polymer chemistry,” says Hanadi Sleiman, professor of chemistry at McGill University and senior author of the study. “Chemically copying the information contained in DNA nanostructures offers a powerful solution to the problem of size, shape, and directional control for polymeric materials.”
The new research builds on techniques developed back in 2013 by Sleiman’s research group to make nanoscale “cages” from strands of DNA, and stuff them with lipid-like polymer chains that fold together into a ball-shaped particle that can contain cargo such as drug molecules.
Sleiman and her PhD student Tuan Trinh teamed up with colleagues at the University of Vermont and Texas A&M University at Qatar to take their Nano-Engineering feat a step further.
The researchers have now developed a method to imprint the polymer balls with DNA strands arranged in pre-designed orientations. These cages can then be undone, leaving behind DNA-imprinted polymer particles capable of self-assembling, much like DNA, in pre-designed patterns
Because the DNA cages are like a mould to build the polymer particle, the particle size and number of molecular units in the polymer are precisely controllable, says Sleiman.
One potential use for these new asymmetrical polymer structures is having each compartment of the structure encapsulating a different drug that could be delivered using different stimuli at different times.
Source: McGill University