BALTIMORE, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have trained DNA nanotubes to construct a bridge across a a cell culture dish.
"If this process were to happen at the human scale, it would be like one person casting a fishing line from one side of a football field and trying to hook a person standing on the other side," Abdul Mohammed, a postdoctoral fellow at JHU, explained in a news release.
Mohammed works in the lab of Rebecca Schulman, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and senior of author a new paper describing the microscopic feat, published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
DNA nanotubes are microscopic building blocks composed of synthetic nucleic acid structures. Their structural integrity is valued in the nanotechnology construction field.
Because synthetic nucleic acid structures can self-assemble into chains, forming long nanotubes, they were an obvious choice for microscopic bridge building. In the lab, Schulman and her fellow researchers attached DNA nanotubes to two molecular end posts in a Petri dish.
The DNA structures self-assemble a chain as they wriggle toward the center of the dish, exploring new territory. Eventually, they bump into each other and forge a solid connection, forming a bridge.
Researchers used fluorescent dyes and a microscope to film the bridge-building action. Depending on how far apart the molecular anchors are, the bridge can take anywhere from several hours to a few days to complete.
Scientists believe the technology can be used to build connections between biomedical devices and the surfaces of cells.