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Using the origami technique to design RNA nanostructures

Published in Nanomachines Development.

Researchers from Aarhus University and Berkeley Laboratory have designed RNA molecules, that folds into nanoscale rectangles, cylinders, and satellites, and have studied their 3D structure and dynamics with advanced nanotechnological methods. In an article in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers describe their work and how it has led to the discovery of rules and mechanisms for RNA folding that will make it possible to build more ideal and functional RNA particles for use in RNA-based medicine.

The RNA molecule is commonly recognized as messenger between DNA and protein, but it can also be folded into intricate molecular machines. An example of a naturally occurring RNA machine is the ribosome, that functions as a protein factory in all cells. Inspired by natural RNA machines, researchers at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO) have developed a method called “RNA origami”, which makes it possible to design artificial RNA nanostructures that fold from a single stand of RNA. The method is inspired by the Japanese paper folding art, origami, where a single piece of paper can be folded into a given shape, such as a paper bird.