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DNAmoticons

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.

The Scan

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.

Gut Microbiomes Allow Bears to Grow to Similar Sizes Despite Differing Diets

Researchers in Scientific Reports find that the makeup of brown bears' gut microbiomes allows them to reach similar sizes even when feasting on different foods.

Finding Safe Harbor in the Human Genome

In Genome Biology, researchers present a new approach to identify genomic safe harbors where transgenes can be expressed without affecting host cell function.

New Data Point to Nuanced Relationship Between Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder

Lund University researchers in JAMA Psychiatry uncover overlapping genetic liabilities for major depression and bipolar disorder.