In a new study in Nature, researchers from Harvard Medical School say they've devised a method to force DNA strands into creating letters, emoticons, and different shapes, reports Ed Yong in Nature News. The researchers use single strands of DNA only 42 base long. Each one is unique and forms a rectangular tile, and when the strands are mixed together, they stick to each other, Yong says. "In their simplest configuration, the tiles produce a solid 64-by-103-nanometre rectangle," he adds, "but [Harvard's Bryan] Wei and his team can create more complex shapes by leaving out specific tiles. Using this strategy, they created 107 two-dimensional shapes, including letters, numbers, Chinese characters, geometric shapes and symbols."
But there's more to this research than just writing a novel from DNA strands. "Such structures might be useful for designing nano-scale devices for delivering drugs, especially because they would be less likely to be broken down by DNA-cutting enzymes or trigger an immune reaction," Yong adds.