Posted on Mar 12, 2012, 6 a.m.
Harvard University (US) scientists have created a robot made entirely from DNA that can be instructed to find diseased cells in the body and deliver a payload to kill or reprogram them.
Biotechnologists have been working to identify ways to locate diseased cells in the body and deliver targeted therapies to kill only the abnormal cells and leave healthy cells intact. Shawn Douglas, from Harvard University (Massachusetts USA), and colleagues have constructed a robot by folding DNA strands and programming the device to open in the presence of leukemia and lymphoma cells in a laboratory dish, where they delivered immune system antibodies that caused the cells to self-destruct. The technology employs a "zipper" construction of a special sequence of DNA, which releases its grip when it recognizes specific targets on the cell, thereby allowing the robot to deliver the therapeutic drug. Successfully implementing several different logical and gates and having demonstrated their efficacy in selective regulation of nanorobot function, the study authors submit that: "Our prototype could inspire new designs with different selectivities and biologically active payloads for cell-targeting tasks.”
Shawn M. Douglas, Ido Bachelet, George M. Church. “A Logic-Gated Nanorobot for Targeted Transport of Molecular Payloads.” Science, 17 February 2012: 831-834.