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Minute “printing press” gets gold nanoparticles organized

by • January 10, 2016 • No Comments

Researchers at McGill University’s Department of Chemistry have created what may be the world’s smallest “printing press.” Using synthetic DNA as a kind of scaffold, the scientists manipulated gold nanoparticles a millionth of an inch in diameter to form orderly structures which may have excellent scientific, engineering, and medical potential.

With their peculiar optical, electronic, and chemical properties, gold nanoparticles are of excellent interest to scientists, but manipulating them to create best use of those properties is a bit like thrilling together a load of gears and springs in a vat and hoping to get a Rolex watch.

Gold nanoparticles have been utilized since the Middle ages by stained glass creaters, who added gold chloride to molten glass to create a ruby-red color in the glass panels. This, yet, was accidental and inefficient. To unlock the additional valuable properties of such nanoparticles, they require to be additional organized so they can be brought close together in tiny clusters or into crystals created of up millions of particles set in a three-dimensional pattern. Not amazingly, conventional techniques aren’t up to such a task, so the McGill team hit on the thought of using DNA as an organizer – much in the same way as strands of DNA can be utilized to manipulate genetic material in living cells.

The thought is to use the talent of a DNA unit to pair with a complementary unit to create strands of synthetic DNA which can bond with and manipulate the nanoparticles. Up until now, this was a complex and labor-intensive system, but the McGill innovation was to create a DNA structure which works like a printing press in a manner which is reusable, less expensive, and carries what McGill calls “unprecedented” information.

According to the team, when a gold nanoparticle encounters the structure, it comes up against strands of DNA sticking out of it which end in a sticky chemical patch. The particle sticks to this, and when the particle and DNA structure are dissolved in distilled water, the structure and the particle separate, but the strands are left behind sticking to the gold. Meanwhile, DNA structure can be utilized again like the letters in a printing press after a page has been run off.

The team is currently investigating the sorts of structures which can be created using this new technique. The hope is which they may have important applications, such as the talent to target cancer cells in the human body for destruction without harming neighboring tissues.

The team’s research was published in Nature Chemistry.

Source: McGill

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