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Forget AutoCAD–this app lets you design with DNA

Perdix is a free CAD software that lets you draw anything–from doodles to actual nanobiology–with DNA strands.

Forget AutoCAD–this app lets you design with DNA
[Image: Perdix]
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Ever wanted to draw at the nanoscale? Well, now there’s an app for that. It’s called Perdix.

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The free, open-source software, designed by a team of scientists from MIT and Arizona State University, lets anyone create 2D nanostructures using DNA strands. It’s a fun tool for anyone to play around with, but it could also have fascinating applications in quantum computing and photonics.

[Image: Perdix]
The new technology is built using the principle of scaffolded DNA origami, which was invented by Paul Rothemund, PhD, in 2006 to create any kind of bi- and tri-dimensional DNA structure. But Rothemund’s technology wasn’t available to just anyone. It was only accessible in expensive labs, and people with the necessary technical expertise.

Perdix changes this, making biological “drawing” available to just about anyone. The software can automatically take any polygonal design drawn in a CAD program and transform it into a mesh that can be printed using synthetic DNA sequences. According to Mark Bathe, associate professor of biological engineering at MIT and the senior author of the study, this work “allows anyone to draw literally any 2D shape and convert it into DNA origami automatically.”

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[Image: Perdix]
Of course, this is not just to create tiny cute drawing of tigers and koalas, though the authors offer up a few of those to demonstrate how easy their software is to use. They claim that engineers will be able to use this system to print nanoscale “parts” for all kinds of pursuits, including “cell biology, photonics, and quantum sensing and computing, among many others.”

The future of biological design is here, and it’s as simple as downloading an app. You can download it for Windows or OS X here.

About the author

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce and a contributing writer at Fast Company.

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