This may sound a bit weird but bear with – the origami DNA bunnies are an experiment conducted by researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. Through this strange hobby the scientists have taken up, we may soon be able to operate on cancer cells on the microscopic level, preventing their reproduction.
The study was published in Nature magazine this Wednesday and its main contribution is the way that the researchers went about making these cute little formations. Of course, they did imagine only bunnies, but also other complex structures.
The new technique proposed by them comes from a longstanding and famous problem that was solved in 1976 by Leonhard Euler called the Seven Bridges of Königsberg. In that case, the issue was how to walk through the whole city by crossing each of the seven bridges it had only once. Björn Högberg of the current study says that their conundrum was extremely similar.
To do these structures out of DNA strands, one needed extremely large scale versions so as to accurately see how to combine the strands as to not alter its overall structure. Therefore, they needed to create an Eulerian path so as to make them not overlap too much and at the same time maximize the strength of the whole resulting shape.
Högberg explains that for the origami bunny to be of any real use, the DNA needs to be meticulously arranged in polygonal shapes to create 3D structures, but the strands need not meet more than once at every corner. The problem is caused by the fact that, DNA being a circular molecule, it needs to meet itself at the end – if that makes any sense.
To solve this problem, they naturally went to a computer scientist from Finland’s Aalto University. With his help, the researched solved the problem by creating an algorithm that automatically avoids any problems in its path. The final result meant feeding a complex shape used normally for a 3-D printing device, and then the algorithm would optimize it specifically for DNA strands.
There had been previous ideas to make micro-structures out of DNA strands, but this is the first feasible one – according to Tim Lied, the physicist whom review their theory for Nature. He praises this new method, calling it “versatile” and “streamlined.”
However exciting this new research is, the bunnies are still a long way from taking actual physical form, since the problem of 3-D printing with such microscopic precision has yet to be solved. So no, this is not a do it yourself hobby just yet.
Image source: zmescience.com