DNA can be designed to assemble into specific shapes, but the range of possibilities has been limited – until now. A clutch of papers published in the same issue of Nature describe several approaches to making very large structures. Lulu Qian and colleagues at Caltech used simple assembly rules recursively to create 2D arrays with areas up to 0.5 µm2, while Peng Yin and team at Harvard University used DNA “bricks” to make 3D nanostructures of more than 10,000 components. Hendrik Dietz and colleagues at the Technical University of Munich, meanwhile, show that large objects can be efficiently assembled in a multi-stage process using DNA building blocks with optimised shape and interaction patterns, also demonstrating a scalable, cost-efficient method for making the required DNA strands. The results make it clear that DNA can be made to self-assemble into a wide variety of large structures with the aim of building synthetic cellular machines for research, engineering and medical applications.

Further reading
G Tikhomirov et al. 2017 Nature 552 67.
L Ong et al. 2017 Nature 552 72.
K Wagenbauer et al. 2017 Nature 552 78.
F Praetorius et al. 2017 Nature 552 84.