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Nucleic Acid Based Nanostructures

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The nano revolution goes biological

Smart materials are pushing the limits of industry and technology. One class of these materials is based on nanometre-sized particles that can help improve targeted drug delivery considerably.

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The EU-funded project 'Nucleic Acid Based Nanostructures' (NUCAN) developed the building blocks that could enable novel materials in a number of applications in such fields as bioanalytics, drug delivery and nanoelectronics. Nucleic acids boast unique properties in polymers and macromolecules that support nanometre-scale constructs in one, two and three dimensions. These constructs, known as nucleic acid based nanostructures (Nabnanos), required much team work in designing their DNA and PNA sequences. The research resulted in self assembled DNA-protein nanostructures with enzymatic activity that can still function at elevated temperatures. In addition, Nabnanos were developed for nanoelectronics using metallic nanoparticles and single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs). The project team was also able to attach different sized gold and silver nanobeads to DNA oligomers (types of molecules) and couple DNA to carbon nanotubes. It then made progress with Nabnanos in producing self-assembled transistors and developed protocols for chemical surface modifications so that Nabnanos could adhere to surfaces like electrodes, silicon and glass. Moreover, numerous biochemical protocols were successfully developed and optimised during the project's course to develop the desired nanostructures using complex hardware and software. Electrically conductive nanowires were also produced as a basis for nanoelectronic circuitry. These are just some of the results that were achieved by the project team. Towards the end of the project the nanostructures were tested on different human cell types, demonstrating the powerful impact that Nabnanos could have on drug delivery. This could enable the reformulation of numerous drugs already on the market, lessening side effects and improving more targeted drug uptake. These results have been widely disseminated in relevant international journals and through several conferences.

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