Programmable patterns in a DNA-based reaction–diffusion system†
Biology offers compelling proof that macroscopic “living materials” can emerge from reactions between diffusing biomolecules. Here, we show that molecular self-organization could be a similarly powerful approach for engineering functional synthetic materials. We introduce a programmable DNA embedded hydrogel that produces tunable patterns at the centimeter length scale. We generate these patterns by implementing chemical reaction networks through synthetic DNA complexes, embedding the complexes in the hydrogel, and triggering with locally applied input DNA strands. We first demonstrate ring pattern formation around a circular input cavity and show that the ring width and intensity can be predictably tuned. Then, we create patterns of increasing complexity, including concentric rings and non-isotropic patterns. Finally, we show “destructive” and “constructive” interference patterns, by combining several ring-forming modules in the gel and triggering them from multiple sources. We further show that computer simulations based on the reaction–diffusion model can predict and inform the programming of target patterns.