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Octahedral and icosahedral shells

Scientists have made virus-trapping shells from as few as 8 DNA panels (left) and as many as 180 (right). Credit: C. Sigl et al./Nature Mater.

Materials science

Snap and trap: DNA panels click together to form tiny virus catchers

Modular materials can be programmed to self-assemble into hollow shells with a wide variety of shapes.

Scientists have designed DNA panels that can recognize specific viruses and clamp together around the pathogens, trapping the viral particles inside an impregnable DNA shell.

Antibiotics can kill bacteria, but medicine has no such weapon against viruses. Hendrik Dietz at the Technical University of Munich in Germany and his colleagues have come up with an alternative: quarantining viruses inside traps to stop them interacting with cells.

The researchers first designed triangular panels that self-assembled from DNA strands and had patterns of knobs and hollows on their edges. This meant that panels could click together like puzzle pieces, forming a range of 3D shapes, or shells.

Shells of different shapes had internal cavities of different sizes and as a result could accommodate viruses big and small. The inner side of the panels carried antibodies to allow them to target specific viruses.

When combined with human cells and live virus, the shells prevented the viral particles from infecting most of the cells.

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After 130 hours of artificial ageing by visible light, the painting Triton and Nereid has lost some of the purple tint to the figures’ right, but a graphene film kept the bright pink at upper left undimmed. Credit: M. Kotsidi et al./Nature Nanotechnol.

Materials science

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