The Elmer’s and Gorilla Glues of the world have just been outdone by a team of researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute. After all, can either adhesive say they were made out of DNA?

Yes, you read correctly. Researchers have cracked the code to self-assembly by developing the world’s first programmable glue.

Comprised of DNA, the glue allows for complex structures to self-assemble out of bricks smaller than a grain of salt, which researchers say could help solve one of the major challenges facing tissue engineering:

Regrowing human tissue by injecting tiny components into the body that then self-assemble into larger, intricately structured, biocompatible scaffolds at an injury site.

Ali Khademhosseini, an associate faculty member at the Wyss Institute, noted in a release that, moving forward, the glue could be used to create a variety of small, self-assembling devices, including reconfigurable microchips or surgical glue capable of weaving together only the desired tissues.

Khademhosseini served as a senior co-author of the research report—published Monday in Nature Communications—with fellow Wyss Institute faculty member Peng Yin. Prior to creating the glue, Yin attempted to self-assemble hydrogel bricks into complex structures, yet the bricks often “glommed onto one another rather than assembling into the desired architecture.” With the programmable glue, however, each component sticks only to specific partners, not other components. DNA was then ideal for the task, because:

A single strand of DNA adheres tightly to a second strand, but only if the second strand has a sequence of nucleotides that is complementary to the first. And even a short piece of DNA can have a huge number of possible sequences, which makes the glue programmable.

Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber commended Khademhosseini and Yin’s work, acknowledging in a release the duo took an innovative approach to tissue engineering.

“Peng and Ali have created an elegant and straightforward method that could permit tissues to be reconstructed from within after a simple injection,” he said, “rather than requiring major surgery.”

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