Scientists from John Hopkins University have created DNA nanostructures which self-heal in serum, avoiding the damage to such nanostructures which has historically occurred when they are added to cellular environments. The study, published in Nano Letters, saw scientists creating DNA nanotubes which self-assembled from smaller DNA “tiles”. When extra tiles were added to serum containing the nanotubes, they repaired over time, quadrupling their lifetime from the standard 24 hours that most nanostructures last.

While DNA formed into nanostructures could have applications ranging from nanomedicine to DNA computers, currently placing it in biological environments causes it damage due to nucleases which degrade DNA.

Previous attempts to stabilise the serum structures included chemically modifying the DNA, but doing this was both expensive, time-consuming, and potentially affected the biocompatibility of the nanostructures.

The researchers said that: “This model suggests how introducing even a relatively low rate of repair could allow a nanostructure to survive almost indefinitely because of a dynamic equilibrium between microscale repair and degradation processes.

“The ability to repair nanostructures could thus allow particular structures or devices to operate for long periods of time and might offer a single means to resist different types of chemical degradation.”