Biohacking enthusiasts, this is your lucky day. Researchers at Harvard University have found a way to convert DNA into a programmable, sticky glue that can be used to reconnect damaged organs or even build functional human tissues from the ground up. The team of scientists working on the DNA Glue at Harvard’s Wyss Institute bill it as “the world’s first programmable glue.”
Using special enzymes, the researchers multiplied a snippet of DNA into a giant super-strand of DNA. Hydrogel cubes were then coated with the DNA super-strands; DNA’s natural attractive properties connected the cubes to matching partners coated with compatible DNA. Using the DNA glue, the researchers were able to build huge hydrogel structures.
Peng Yin and Ali Khademhosseini, the lead senior authors of the hydrogel study (published in the latest issue of Nature Communications), were even able to connect hydrogel pieces a millimeter in diameter to each other with the DNA glue. “Designing a strategy that leverages the power of self assembly used by living systems to direct construction of tissues from tiny component parts represents an entirely new approach for tissue engineering,” said Don Ingber of the Wyss Institute in a statement. “Peng and Ali have created an elegant and straightforward method that could permit tissues to be reconstructed from within after a simple injection, rather than requiring major surgery.”
The technology, which has not yet been approved by the FDA, can also be used to build lenses, reconfigurable microchips, and surgical glue.