Nanoparticles and DNA – a powerful and growing functional combination in bionanotechnology
Functionally integrating DNA and other nucleic acids with nanoparticles in all their different physicochemical forms has produced a rich variety of composite nanomaterials which, in many cases, display unique or augmented properties due to the synergistic activity of both components. These capabilities, in turn, are attracting greater attention from various research communities in search of new nanoscale tools for diverse applications that include (bio)sensing, labeling, targeted imaging, cellular delivery, diagnostics, therapeutics, theranostics, bioelectronics, and biocomputing to name just a few amongst many others. Here, we review this vibrant and growing research area from the perspective of the materials themselves and their unique capabilities. Inorganic nanocrystals such as quantum dots or those made from gold or other (noble) metals along with metal oxides and carbon allotropes are desired as participants in these hybrid materials since they can provide distinctive optical, physical, magnetic, and electrochemical properties. Beyond this, synthetic polymer-based and proteinaceous or viral nanoparticulate materials are also useful in the same role since they can provide a predefined and biocompatible cargo-carrying and targeting capability. The DNA component typically provides sequence-based addressability for probes along with, more recently, unique architectural properties that directly originate from the burgeoning structural DNA field. Additionally, DNA aptamers can also provide specific recognition capabilities against many diverse non-nucleic acid targets across a range of size scales from ions to full protein and cells. In addition to appending DNA to inorganic or polymeric nanoparticles, purely DNA-based nanoparticles have recently surfaced as an excellent assembly platform and have started finding application in areas like sensing, imaging and immunotherapy. We focus on selected and representative nanoparticle–DNA materials and highlight their myriad applications using examples from the literature. Overall, it is clear that this unique functional combination of nanomaterials has far more to offer than what we have seen to date and as new capabilities for each of these materials are developed, so, too, will new applications emerge.