Programmable CRISPR-responsive smart materials

Science. 2019 Aug 23;365(6455):780-785. doi: 10.1126/science.aaw5122.


Stimuli-responsive materials activated by biological signals play an increasingly important role in biotechnology applications. We exploit the programmability of CRISPR-associated nucleases to actuate hydrogels containing DNA as a structural element or as an anchor for pendant groups. After activation by guide RNA-defined inputs, Cas12a cleaves DNA in the gels, thereby converting biological information into changes in material properties. We report four applications: (i) branched poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogels releasing DNA-anchored compounds, (ii) degradable polyacrylamide-DNA hydrogels encapsulating nanoparticles and live cells, (iii) conductive carbon-black-DNA hydrogels acting as degradable electrical fuses, and (iv) a polyacrylamide-DNA hydrogel operating as a fluidic valve with an electrical readout for remote signaling. These materials allow for a range of in vitro applications in tissue engineering, bioelectronics, and diagnostics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acrylic Resins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry*
  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • CRISPR-Associated Proteins / chemistry*
  • Cells / chemistry
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / chemistry
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA Cleavage
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / chemistry
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases / chemistry*
  • Hydrogels / chemistry*
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Pathology, Molecular*
  • Permeability
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Tissue Engineering*


  • Acrylic Resins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • CRISPR-Associated Proteins
  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • Hydrogels
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • polyacrylamide
  • DNA
  • Cas12a protein
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases