Programming & Printing DNA

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was one of the most ambitious scientific endeavors ever undertaken by mankind

Its modest goal, according to Robert Krulwich, was to “determining the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up DNA, and…Identifying and mapping the approximately 20,000–25,000 genes of the human genome from both a physical and functional standpoint.” Deemed complete by scientists in 2003, the HGP had sequenced 92% of the human genome with 99.99% accuracy.

Since its completion, scientists have used information gained from the HGP in fields from molecular medicine to evolutionary biology.

A recently awarded patent highlights the profound advances in medicine that are only possible because of the wealth of information contained within the HGP’s results.

Parabon Nanolabs has recently received a joint grant awarded by the National Science Foundation for the development and testing of a drug to treat prostate cancer. Unlike other treatments for diseases, Parabon’s technique relies on an insightful understanding of human DNA coupled with a nanoscale printing technique.

According to Steven Armentrout, co-developer of Parabon’s technology, “We can now ‘print,’ molecule by molecule, exactly the compound that we want… What differentiates our nanotechnology from others is our ability to rapidly, and precisely, specify the placement of every atom in a compound that we design.”

Parabon’s technology, named the EssemblixDrug Development Platform, assembles programmable synthetic DNA strands that can be configured to represent any combination of the four bases that make up DNA (adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine). Parabon further describes the process, “Because complementary sequences of DNA are mutually attractive, synthetic strands can be “programmed” with sequences that cause them to “swim to the right spot,” with respect to one another, and then bind to form nanostructures of virtually any shape.” However, before the complementary base pairs are introduced, Parabon introduces molecular subcomponents to specific locations along the DNA strand.

To work on this molecular scale Parabon had to develop their inSequio Sequence Design Studio software which allows their engineers to design and configure synthetic DNA sequences that contain therapeutic molecular subcomponents.

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