Single needle, double helix

RSC Press Release: DNA sewing machines

The team use optical tweezers – tightly focused laser beams – to control the Z-shaped micro hook and pick up a single DNA “thread”. The hook is barbed like an arrow, so the thread can’t escape. When caught on the hook, the DNA can be accurately moved around by refocusing the lasers to new positions.

But just like thread in a sewing machine, a long DNA chain can be unwieldy – so the researchers built micro “bobbins” to wind the chain around. The lasers move one bobbin around another, winding the DNA thread onto a manageable spindle.

The idea of things that can catch hold of a piece of DNA is to me not nearly as remarkable as the idea that you can then move those things around with optical tweezers and thread the DNA through whatever you want.

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