DNA origami is a process by which a researcher can create nano-scale structures using DNA as a building material. DNA origami was developed by Paul W. K. Rothemund of Caltech. It works by using a long "scaffold" strand of viral DNA and holding it together using short, 200-250 base, "staple strands." The origami is formed by a researcher using enzymes to cut DNA in certain places on a 5,000-10,000 base strand, inducing the cut pieces into parallel positions and making crossovers, and then using the staple strands to strengthen the structure.1
The use of DNA as a building material for nano-structures was first put forth by Nadrian Seeman. Previously, there was more of a focus on build nano structures by directing working with atoms using various forms of microscopy. These methods were and continue to be very expensive to use, so many scientists turned to looking for biological nano-structures that would self-assemble. That was some success in this field, but the usual methods usual involved sheets of short interlocking strands. This kind of structure required many steps to create, as even a small miscalculation in ratios could lead to the whole process failing. The main breakthrough came when one researcher folded one strand of DNA to create a single structure. Paul W.K. Rothemund built on this idea and combined the two methods: Folding one long strand of DNA and then using staple stands to strengthen the structure.