Using DNA to build structures for medicine and materials science
DNA is the molecule of life, the blueprint that defines who we are. But it’s much more than that. The very properties that make DNA such a reliable molecule for information storage also make it a remarkable building material.
Dr. Hanadi Sleiman, Canada Research Chair in DNA Nanoscience, is taking DNA out of its biological context and using it to build two- and three-dimensional structures. These DNA materials feature precise positioning of components on the nanometre scale (about one billionth of a metre) and can act as molecular machines that are responsive to external stimuli.
The Sleiman group has constructed DNA nanotubes (nanometre-scale tube-like structures) that hold cargo which is rapidly released when specific biological molecules are added. These tiny DNA cargo carriers can penetrate mammalian cells and Sleiman is now optimizing them for medical applications. These include delivery vehicles that can selectively release drug treatments into diseased cells and cellular probes that can sense, predict and possibly even prevent disease.
The Sleiman group has organized transition metals, gold nanoparticles, lipids and synthetic polymers onto their DNA scaffolds. She is developing these systems even further, with possible uses that include biological sensor development, platforms for genomics applications and components for electronic and optical devices that operate on the nanometer scale.
Sleiman’s research will lead to new ways of delivering drugs and the development of cellular probes that could predict and prevent disease.