CAREER: Programming digital bits with DNA for barcoded nanoscale imaging applications

Investigator: Shawn M. Douglas
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Location(s): United States


Biomolecules are the tiny molecular building blocks out of which all living organisms are made. Understanding the structure and function of biomolecules is critical for advancement of our understanding of how life works, as well as emerging engineering disciplines that seek to repurpose biomolecules for technology development. Electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) enables researchers to visualize the structure of biomolecules. One technical limitation of the technique is that biomolecules must be imaged one at a time because they are too small to tell apart when mixed together. It would be a significant advance if it were possible to attach "barcodes" to biomolecules so they could be imaged simultaneously and uniquely identified during data analysis. The goal of this project is to create and optimize such barcodes using DNA as a nano-scale programmable building material. If successful, the proposed approach should greatly increase the speed and impact of the cryo-EM technique.