This article was originally published here
Chem Rev. 2021 May 26. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.1c00009. Online ahead of print.
RNA nanotechnology is the bottom-up self-assembly of nanometer-scale architectures, resembling LEGOs, composed mainly of RNA. The ideal building material should be (1) versatile and controllable in shape and stoichiometry, (2) spontaneously self-assemble, and (3) thermodynamically, chemically, and enzymatically stable with a long shelf life. RNA building blocks exhibit each of the above. RNA is a polynucleic acid, making it a polymer, and its negative-charge prevents nonspecific binding to negatively charged cell membranes. The thermostability makes it suitable for logic gates, resistive memory, sensor set-ups, and NEM devices. RNA can be designed and manipulated with a level of simplicity of DNA while displaying versatile structure and enzyme activity of proteins. RNA can fold into single-stranded loops or bulges to serve as mounting dovetails for intermolecular or domain interactions without external linking dowels. RNA nanoparticles display rubber- and amoeba-like properties and are stretchable and shrinkable through multiple repeats, leading to enhanced tumor targeting and fast renal excretion to reduce toxicities. It was predicted in 2014 that RNA would be the third milestone in pharmaceutical drug development. The recent approval of several RNA drugs and COVID-19 mRNA vaccines by FDA suggests that this milestone is being realized. Here, we review the unique properties of RNA nanotechnology, summarize its recent advancements, describe its distinct attributes inside or outside the body and discuss potential applications in nanotechnology, medicine, and material science.