nanocomputers

DNA-Based Nanocomputers Injected Into Live Cockroaches, Will Deliver Drugs Directly to Diseased Cells

It’s a computer – inside a cockroach. Nano-sized entities made of DNA that are able to perform the same kind of logic operations as a silicon-based computer have been introduced into a living animal.

The DNA computers – known as origami robots because they work by folding and unfolding strands of DNA – travel around the insect’s body and interact with each other, as well as the insect’s cells. When they uncurl, they can dispense drugs carried in their folds.

“DNA nanorobots could potentially carry out complex programs that could one day be used to diagnose or treat diseases with unprecedented sophistication,” says Daniel Levner, a bioengineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

Levner and his colleagues at Bar Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, made the nanobots by exploiting the binding properties of DNA. When it meets a certain kind of protein, DNA unravels into two complementary strands. By creating particular sequences, the strands can be made to unravel on contact with specific molecules – say, those on a diseased cell. When the molecule unravels, out drops the package wrapped inside.

…The team says the accuracy of delivery and control of the nanobots is equivalent to a computer system. “This is the first time that biological therapy has been able to match how a computer processor works,” says co-author Ido Bachelet of the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Bar Ilan University. “Unlike electronic devices, which are suitable for our watches, our cars or phones, we can use these robots in life domains, like a living cockroach,” says Ángel Goñi Moreno of the National Center for Biotechnology in Madrid, Spain. “This opens the door for environmental or health applications.”

DNA has already been used for storing large amounts of information and circuits for amplifying chemical signals, but these applications are rudimentary compared with the potential benefits of the origami robots.

(via DNA nanobots deliver drugs in living cockroaches - health - 08 April 2014 - New Scientist)

This scanning electron micrograph of smiley faces is not just the whimsical creation of a mad scientist. It’s the advent of an amazing technique called DNA origami. Yes, the tiny smiley faces - each about 100 nanometers in diameter - are made of the very same DNA that serve as the building blocks for your genes.

Origami is a craft that transforms the simplest materials into intricate works of art. Precise folds and careful planning draw fantastic creatures from an otherwise unremarkable sheet of paper: cranes, dragons, lilies, and…scaffolds for complex nanomachinery?

Through careful engineering and clever implementation of standard molecular techniques and Watson-Crick base pairing, scientists have found a way to fold long DNA helices into elaborate structures that they call DNA origami. This exciting technique—a very, very distant relative of the ancient art of paper folding—enables the creation of scaffolds for nanocomputers and nanorobotics that are mere TENS of nanometers in length! 

Read more about DNA origami and the amazing things it can do as part of Nanoweek at the Athens Science Observer!

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