In case you missed it (ICYMI), here are some of the stories that made headlines in the world of cleanrooms and nanotechnology in the past week.
Researchers at MIT and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have identified a hidden, ephemeral phenomenon in cells that may play a major role in jump-starting mRNA production and regulating gene transcription. In a paper published in the online journal eLife, the researchers report using a new super-resolution imaging technique they’ve developed, to see individual mRNA molecules coming out of a gene in a live cell. Using this same technique, they observed that, just before mRNA’s appearance, the enzyme RNA polymerase II (Pol II) gathers in clusters on the same gene for just a few brief seconds before scattering apart. When the researchers manipulated the enzyme clusters in such a way that they stayed together for longer periods of time, they found that the gene produced correspondingly more molecules of mRNA. Clusters of Pol II therefore may play a central role in triggering mRNA production and controlling gene transcription.
Engineers at University at Buffalo have discovered a new gatekeeper for light. Such a gatekeeper would enable powerful and unique capabilities in a wide range of electronic, optical and other applications, including those that rely on transistors or other components that switch on and off. The finding has to do with materials that are periodic, which means that they’re made up of parts or units that repeat. Crystals fall into this category, as do certain parts of the wings of butterflies, whose periodic structure helps give them color by reflecting specific colors of light.
Finally, in new research appearing in the advance online edition of the journal Science, Arizona State University researcher Hao Yan and colleagues from MIT and Baylor College of Medicine describe a new method for designing geometric forms built from DNA. They present a novel variant on a technique known as DNA origami, in which the base-pairing properties of DNA are exploited for the construction of tiny structures in two and three dimensions. Yan’s collaborators at MIT, led by Mark Bathe, developed a computer algorithm to design DNA nanostructures by only inputting a target shape. They engineered a software platform that can compute and output necessary DNA strands to form designer architectures. Formation of these structures were then systematically characterized and confirmed experimentally at the three institutes.