The initial publication concerning the nano-robot as transporter

Science magazine published an article on February 17, 2012, entitled “A Logic-Gated Nanorobot for Targeted Transport of Molecular Payloads.” The abstract of the article states:

We describe an autonomous DNA nanorobot capable of transporting molecular payloads to cells, sensing cell surface inputs for conditional, triggered activation, and reconfiguring its structure for payload delivery. The device can be loaded with a variety of materials in a highly organized fashion and is controlled by an aptamer-encoded logic gate, enabling it to respond to a wide array of cues. We implemented several different logical AND gates and demonstrate their efficacy in selective regulation of nanorobot function. As a proof of principle, nanorobots loaded with combinations of antibody fragments were used in two different types of cell-signaling stimulation in tissue culture. Our prototype could inspire new designs with different selectivities and biologically active payloads for cell-targeting tasks.

DNA origami nanorobot

DNA origami nanorobot (Campbell Strong, Shawn Douglas, Gael McGill)

Harvard University’s description of DNA origami

Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering describes their work as follows:

Wyss Institute researchers are at the forefront of work in DNA Origami, a technique for folding pieces of DNA into shapes that may one day prove useful in manufacturing and medicine. The hope is that these incredibly tiny forms could carry cancer drugs deep inside the body or work as cogs in a molecular machine.

Recent advances by Wyss scientists include the formation of three-dimensional shapes, such as an icosahedron, and of twisted and curved shapes. It’s not yet clear which of these shapes will be most useful, but by developing expertise in shape creation and variety, scientists believe they will be able to make the best use of the technique.

The researchers’ short-term goal is to make increasingly complex shapes, improve their fabrication methods, and develop new applications for their nanoscale parts.

Long-term, Wyss Faculty Member William Shih recently told MSNBC, “We’d like to be able to approach the efficiency with which viruses deliver their cargo to cells, but do it in a safer way.”

A video interview of the research team members

Wyss Institute’s research team members described and illustrated the design, workings and potential of their nano-robots in the following interview:

For other reports of this story (among many), see:

  1. Elizabeth Lopatto, “DNA Robots Programmed to Kill Cancer Cells, Harvard Study Shows,” Businessweek Magazine, February 24, 2012.
  2. Nanobots Seek and Destroy Cancer Cells,” International Business Times, February 22, 2012
  3. DNA nanorobot could offer targeted treatment of cancer,”, February 19, 2012
  4. Romeo Castro, “Microscopic DNA Robots To Fight Against Deadly Diseases,” CFO World, February 24, 2012
  5. Kanika Mehta, “DNA Robot Impose Lethal Gust on Cancer Cells,” TopNews Arab Emirates, February 18, 2012
  6. Alex Knapp, “Scientists Target Cancer With DNA Robots,” Forbes, February 17, 2012
  7. Belle Dumé, “DNA Nanorobot Delivers Drugs,” Physics World, February 17, 2012

A more complete list of media coverage on this story can be found at Wyss Institute’s media coverage page.

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