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Mechanical Design of DNA-based Probes and Sensors


DNA nanotechnology has emerged as a promising technology for applications such as single molecule sensing, super-resolution imaging, and manipulating molecular components. Major advances in the last decade have enabled the precise design and fabrication of DNA nanostructures with unprecedented geometric complexity; however, relative to natural biomolecular machines, the functional scope of DNA nanotechnology is limited by an inability to design dynamic mechanical behavior such as complex motion, conformational dynamics, or force generation.

Taking inspiration from methods used in macroscopic machine design, Dr. Castro’s lab has recently developed DNA nanostructures with well-defined 1D, 2D, and 3D motion as well as dynamic nanostructures that exhibit multiple stable states separated by tunable energy barriers that can allow thermally driven conformational changes at room temperature. A major goal of his laboratory’s work is to develop devices where dynamic behavior can be exploited to probe nanoscale physical properties or interactions (e.g. molecular forces). He will discuss their fundamental work to design and characterize nanostructures with controllable dynamic behavior and two applications that focus on implementing dynamic DNA devices to probe the structural dynamics of nucleosomes and to measure depletion forces due to molecular crowding. Going forward, a major advantage of these DNA-based devices is the potential to probe physics in complex nano- or micro-scale environments.

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