Functionalizing DNA nanostructures for therapeutic applications

Skylar J.W. Henry, Nicholas Stephanopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Recent advances in nanotechnology have enabled rapid progress in many areas of biomedical research, including drug delivery, targeted therapies, imaging, and sensing. The emerging field of DNA nanotechnology, in which oligonucleotides are designed to self-assemble into programmable 2D and 3D nanostructures, offers great promise for further advancements in biomedicine. DNA nanostructures present highly addressable and functionally diverse platforms for biological applications due to their ease of construction, controllable architecture and size/shape, and multiple avenues for chemical modification. Both supramolecular and covalent modification with small molecules and polymers have been shown to expand or enhance the functions of DNA nanostructures in biological contexts. These alterations include the addition of small molecule, protein, or nucleic acid moieties that enable structural stability under physiological conditions, more efficient cellular uptake and targeting, delivery of various molecular cargos, stimulus-responsive behaviors, or modulation of a host immune response. Herein, various types of DNA nanostructure modifications and their functional consequences are examined, followed by a brief discussion of the future opportunities for functionalized DNA nanostructures as well as the barriers that must be overcome before their translational use. This article is categorized under: Nanotechnology Approaches to Biology > Nanoscale Systems in Biology Therapeutic Approaches and Drug Discovery > Emerging Technologies Biology-Inspired Nanomaterials > Nucleic Acid-Based Structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1729
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • DNA nanotechnology
  • biomaterials
  • drug delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering


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