DNA smart glue that directs assembly of 3D structures with micro-scale features

Life Sciences : Research Tools

Available for licensing


  • Andrew Ellington, Ph.D. , Molecular Biosciences
  • Peter Allen , University of Texas at Austin

Background/unmet need

3D cell culture systems that accurately mimic in vivo tissue organization have been developed for a number of applications such as in vitro disease models and drug screening. However, it has been difficult in many cases to accurately recapitulate the three-dimensional complexity of in vivo structures, especially in a way that is reproducible and scalable. Thus, it is important to find a solution that allows more precision and control in generating 3D structures, while also allowing for reliable and scalable production.

Invention Description

The Ellington lab at UT Austin has generated DNA-based smart glue that may address some of the pitfalls of state of the art technology.

First, the smart glue can precisely direct the assembly of micro-scale particles to form a gel-like substance that can support cell growth. Modifications of the DNA-mediated connectivity can modify the structure of the material in a predetermined fashion, which can, in turn, modify the behavior of cells growing on the substrate.

Second, because of the specificity of DNA:DNA interactions, the material is programmable in a reliable and predictable way that can adjusted to suit needs of a given application.

Third, the material can be 3D printed allowing for the possibility of scalable means of production and allowing for control of shape over final aggregate.

Finally, this is the first demonstration of DNA smart glue that can control micro-scale particles, making this a novel and powerful way to generate 3D scaffolds for cell growth.


  • Programmable and predictable
  • Tunable biochemical and mechanical properties
  • Controls micro-scale structures
  • Biocompatible, supports uniform distribution of cells in matrix
  • Can be degraded so that it does not integrate into the final 3D structure
  • Able to hold its shape in 3D printing
  • Capable of rapid aggregation and assembly
  • Stable in long-term experiments
  • Low cost
  • Easy to prepare

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype