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DNA Cargo Robots

September 15, 2017

DNA robots move and sort nanoscale-sized payloads.

Transcript

Conceptual illustration of a single-stranded DNA robot performing nanoscale cargo sorting tasks. Considerable artistic license has been taken. Demin Liu

Conceptual illustration of a single-stranded DNA robot performing nanoscale cargo sorting tasks. Considerable artistic license has been taken. (Demin Liu)

BOB HIRSHON (Host):

A robot made of DNA. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A robot walks along a track, picking up and dropping off cargo as it moves. But unlike the robots we’re most familiar with, this one is made of DNA, and its payload, tiny molecules.

LULU QIAN (Caltech):

It walks around with a step size of about six nanometers, which is about a 100 millionth of a human’s step size.  

HIRSHON:

That’s Caltech bioengineer Lulu Qian. In the the journal Science, she, Anupama Thubagere and their team describe how the robot’s han ds pick up cargo via the  chemical attraction between DNA and cargo molecules.

QIAN:

It’s like you wear a magnetic glove to pick up a metal ball. But instead, there is chemical attraction between the robot hand and the cargo.

HIRSHON:

Qian says future DNA robots could programmed to synthesize medicines, create  new materials, and deliver drugs to therapeutic targets. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard