Tiny 3-D Structures Assemble with Remarkable Precision

BY Rebecca Jacobson  April 30, 2012 at 11:29 AM EST

A team of scientists at Johns Hopkins University are developing self-assembling, three-dimensional nanostructures that can be used for targeted drug delivery. Think devices thick as a human hair that release liquid and micro grippers that grab tiny objects on command.

“There is a need in medicine to create particles that are smart and that can target specific tumors or a specific disease site without delivering drugs to the rest of the body, which limits side effects,” said David Gracias, a biomolecular engineer at Johns Hopkins.

Gracias and Brown University mathematician Govind Menon design flat shapes that fold into 3D structures. Heat creates surface tension that pulls the edges together and fuses the structures shut. NewsHour Science Correspondent Miles O’Brien reports for the National Science Foundation’s* Science Nation.

*For the record, the National Science Foundation is an underwriter of the NewsHour.