Scientists ‘Print’ 3D DNA Nano-Sized Bunny

The bunny is just one of several 3D DNA structures produced.

bunny sitting
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio  
The classic bunny pose, similar to this, was immortalized in a statue that was subsequently scanned and became the famous Stanford bunny.

It turns out 3D printing is done with more than just plastic. In a study published yesterday by Nature, a weekly science journal, researchers Björn Högberg, Erik Benson and others write about using DNA to create nano-sized items in some shapes never before seen in DNA, these included a bunny, a stickman and a ball. These nano objects are really tiny — you need a powerful microscope to see them.

The article preview states, “We present a general method of folding arbitrary polygonal digital meshes in DNA that readily produces structures that would be very difficult to realize using previous approaches.”

The exciting points about this method are that it is automated and it might allow better targeting for delivery of drugs to the body, and there might be other helpful applications as well, according to an article in The Verge.

But forget all the mind-bending scientific stuff. As I read that one of the structures produced was a bunny, all I could think was, “Why a bunny?” 

My first clue was that it was called the Stanford bunny. I’d never heard of that. Was it a wild species? I had to know!

It turns out that the Stanford bunny was born at the university of the same name. It was created by Marc Levoy and Greg Turk. The two authored a paper together titled “Zippered Polygon Meshes From Range Images.” It was basically about how they used range scans of an object to create a 3D digitized version of it. This was back in 1993 and 1994. 

Turk discusses the origins of the Stanford bunny on his website, stating that he was shopping around Easter and had thoughts of finding objects to scan that would 1) be a good reflector of red light, 2) be diffuse (not shiny) and 3) be fairly smooth.

“I entered a shop that sold various decorative items for the home and garden,” Turk writes. “On one of the shelves of the store was a large collection of clay bunny rabbits, all identical. I had range scanning on my mind, and these bunnies looked to be about the right shape and size for our scanning project. Even better, these bunnies were made of terra cotta (red clay), so they were red and diffuse.”

Turk writes that he made the scan, which turned out to have a collection of 69,451 triangles (fairly small for an object). It was made available online, and the rest is history.

“The bunny has been used extensively as a test model for various research projects in computer graphics,” Turk writes.

The original bunny statue is still at Stanford. And now it’s been used to create bunny-shaped DNA. 

Bunny shapes seem to be popular among the 3D crowd, as a rabbit pendant recently won the M3D and 3DShare 3D Design Competition.

As a fan of pet rabbits, I think it’s great that rabbits are inspiring such amazing work. Has your bunny inspired you to do anything?


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