Sunday, December 2, 2012

DNA Tetrahedron for the Nanotech Nerd in You

I created lacy beaded sculpture with glass seed beads, all woven together to resemble a double helix of DNA in the form of a tetrahedron. You might wonder why I would bead such a thing.  Well, it so happens that this structure is studied in nanotechnology and nanofabrication. Scientists have actually built structures like this that are less than 10 nanometers on a side, and they can self-assemble in seconds!
Here is a drawing of a similar DNA tetrahedron by Antony-22.
Three strands of DNA meet at each corner of the tetrahedron. In my beaded version, each edge of the tetrahedron is a 15 base pair DNA double helix (Antony's drawing shows 20). Like Antony's drawing, the 4 DNA strands that form the 4 tetrahedral faces are color coded; mine are in red, green, gold and purple. The beadwork is stiff yet very flexible, and shows a variety of moods when posed. You can even squish it flat shown below, where one point of the tetrahedron is twisted and everything fits together into the opposite face.
It's hard to measure precisely how large it is, but it's about 3 inches (9 cm) across.  This is original art. This is also an educational model. Think of it as a tactile mind game, a little bit of sparkle to entertain your brain.  Want it?  This piece is for sale.  Click the photos to see the listing.

7 comments:

  1. Wow, that is VERY cool.

    Have you thought of doing RNA models too? Very similar to DNA in its double-helix structure, but also comes in all kinds of weird shapes and various sizes (in life as well as in the lab).

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    1. No, I haven't, Sarah. I really don't know anything about RNA. I should look into that. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I always enjoy a good beading challenge!

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  2. Very cool! And much easier to see than a tetrahedron made out of real DNA ;)

    RNA is similar to DNA with a couple of changes:
    1. It uses ribose instead of deoxyribose in its backbone, which makes it less stable than DNA and better-suited to short-term use.
    2. It uses uracil instead of thymine, but uracil still base-pairs with cytosine.
    3. It's /generally/ single-stranded, but because of that it more-readily folds up on itself into various structures besides the double helix. Stem loops and hairpin loops are just some of these so-called secondary structures, and I think they would look cool when beaded: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem-loop

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    1. Ooh yes I was going to suggest hairpin loops as well.
      eg micro-RNA: vair trendy in the life sciences at the moment, esp because they seem to be involved in almost everything:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MicroRNA

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  3. Correction: uracil pairs with adenine, just like thymine pairs with adenine.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Cindy. What would I do without you?

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  4. Well, I'd be more of a help if I remembered the correct base pairs in the first place. And here I thought that I had gotten a Ph.D. in this stuff. Sheesh...

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