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Educational resource

DNA Origami

Step-by-step instructions and printable folding paper included in the downloadable document.

You may recognize DNA as one of the most well-known biological structures. But what better way to understand the actual twists, turns and rules of base-pairing than to make you own 3D origami model?  DNA origami is based upon a design created by Alex Bateman of EMBL-EBI.

The most common shape of DNA in living cells is a right-handed double helix called B-DNA. This structure was first famously proposed by Francis Crick and James Watson, based upon results from nearly two years of work and was partly based on X-ray diffraction data from their colleagues Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin. The downloadable version we have created is the right-handed version.

However, DNA can also form two other shapes!

A-DNA is also right-handed helical structure, but is shorter and wider, and is usually found in dehydrated samples of DNA. Z-DNA is another unusual version, where DNA takes a left-handed shape. It is a temporary phase, existing in response to certain cellular activities, such as when certain genes are being transcribed into proteins.


NHGRI's Jenny Montooth provides a walkthrough of the step-by-step instructions.


NHGRI’s Director Eric Green decided to challenge his toughest competitor, Cardboard Eric, to see who could fold our DNA origami the fastest. Take a look to see who won!


Last updated: September 26, 2023