Abstract. Life is replete with self-assembling nanosystems of unfathomable complexity. That said, we are just at the beginning of the “top down” (the “top” being human cognition) design and implementation of functional self-assembling nanosystems. Fortunately, nature has provided us not only with a vast array of examples but also the materials from which these systems can be made. A breakthrough occurred in 2006 (in the laboratory of Paul Rothemund, Cal Tech) with the demonstration of DNA origami, the ability to program DNA to self-assemble into virtually any desired 2D and 3D shape. The post “gee whiz” stage of this evolution in biotechnology is the creation of useful and integrated nanomachines based on the principles of DNA origami and derivative methodologies.
I will talk about one of the examples of this opportunity -- a system we have developed at Iowa State called OPTIMuS for detection and, eventually, measurement of biomolecular interactions. Clairvoyance is not required to predict that many of the features of DNA origami will be found in nature. I propose that an open minded exploration of natural systems will lead to a nanoscale synthetic biology revolution that will be relevant in many areas including, for example, biomedicine and bioenergy.