The DNA gel is composed of stiff DNA nanotubes connected to each other via long, flexible DNA linkers. A motor protein, FtsK50C, binds to special sites on the linkers. When ATP, a biochemical fuel, is allowed to permeate the gel, the motor molecules reel in the linkers to which they are bound, drawing nanotubes together, and stiffening the gel.
(Credit: Peter Allen/UCSB)

Scientists build ‘smart’ material made of DNA

October 24, 2012

UC Santa Barbara scientists Omar Saleh and Deborah Fygenson have created a dynamic gel made of DNA that mechanically responds to stimuli in much the same way that cells do.

The project has potential applications in smart materials, artificial muscle, understanding cytoskeletal mechanics, research into nonequilibrium physics, and DNA nanotechnology.

“The gel has active mechanical capabilities in that it generates forces independently, leading to changes in elasticity or shape, when fed ATP molecules for energy — much like a living cell,” said Saleh, associate professor of materials, affiliated with UCSB’s Biomolecular Science and Engineering program.

Read more: Scientists build ‘smart’ material made of DNA | KurzweilAI.

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