DNA-Based Robots To Fight Cancer

A robotic device made from DNA may one day be released into the body to find specific cell targets and then deliver molecular-based instructions to self-destruct.

The device was developed by researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.


(Robotic device made from DNA)

Using the DNA origami method, in which complex 3-D shapes and objects are constructed by folding strands of DNA, Shawn Douglas, a Wyss Technology Development Fellow, and Ido Bachelet, a former Wyss postdoctoral fellow who is now an assistant professor in the Faculty of Life Sciences and the Nano-Center at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, created a nanosized robot in the form of an open barrel whose two halves are connected by a hinge. The DNA barrel, which acts as a container, is held shut by special DNA latches that can recognize and seek out combinations of cell-surface proteins, including disease markers. When the latches find their targets, they reconfigure, causing the two halves of the barrel to swing open and expose its contents, or payload. The container can hold various types of payloads, including specific molecules with encoded instructions that can interact with specific cell surface signaling receptors.

By combining several novel elements for the first time, the new system represents a significant advance in overcoming these implementation obstacles. For instance, because the barrel-shaped structure has no top or bottom lids, the payloads can be loaded from the side in a single step without having to open the structure first and then reclose it. Also, while other systems use release mechanisms that respond to DNA or RNA, the novel mechanism used here responds to proteins, which are more commonly found on cell surfaces and are largely responsible for transmembrane signaling in cells. Finally, this is the first DNA-origami-based system that uses antibody fragments to convey molecular messages a feature that offers a controlled and programmable way to replicate an immune response or develop new types of targeted therapies.

Science fiction fans have already been exposed to this idea. In his 1967 novel These Savage Futurians, Philip E. High described a "constructed micro-organism" to fight it out with viruses and bacteria.

"This object, strictly speaking, is a constructed micro-organism about the size of Hartman's virus. It is molded from special plastics, the molecules of which have been atomically arranged for durability in these conditions." He paused and almost managed a smile. "It is also a warrior robot." Again he paused and drew a deep audible breath. "Impressed on the recognition tapes of this robot is a picture of the _Metricitus spirochaeta!_" He walked over to the picture and pointed. "This pointed tube at the front of the robot is a contact device. It is designed to release on contact with the spirochaeta a lethal charge of electricity electronically restricted to a nervous system, or it you prefer it, the substance of the hostile microorganism." He turned to Judith and said, gently, "Have you followed me?"

"Yes, I've followed you." She looked puzzled.

"Judith, this auto-factory has produced sub-microscopic robots in hundred of millions. I propose injecting a few million into your blood stream in a special solution and letting them seek out and destroy the spirochaeta which are causing your illness.
(Read more about High's Sub-microscopic Medical Robots)

From Harvard; thanks to Winchell Chung for contributing the tip and reference for this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/20/2012)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Medical ")

Sleeep PRO Earplug For Maximum Rest
'Merton... placed the electrodes of the sleep-inducer on his forehead.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1963.

You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.' - Frank Herbert, 1972.

First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.

Nanorobots Roam Your Bloodstream, Cleaning It
Too bad they won't have lasers, though...

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Sleeep PRO Earplug For Maximum Rest
'Merton... placed the electrodes of the sleep-inducer on his forehead.'

Inspired By Japan, Nap Pods For Hajj
It's always a good time for a nap.

Amphibio 3D Printed Gill Shirt
'... we can descend and live down there at one of those year-round aquatic resorts.'

How Do You Put An Asteroid Into Earth Orbit? Carefully!
'...she would have to be coaxed by another series of pats into a circular orbit.'

PD Aerospace Space Plane By 2023
'The sleek, tapered space shuttle lay immobile upon the private landing field...'

Foldimate Folds Your Clothes Perfectly
Look ma, my room is clean! I can hear you now.

Robots Help People Get Dressed, As Predicted In 1931
Yes, people of the future, robots will dress you.

International Space Station Leak Plugged - With Finger
'These tag-alongs search out stray leaks.'

Robot Snake Flies, Fights Fires
Just a prototype, but still amazing.

IPAL Chinese Robot Babysitter
'But Nanny is different...'

ZKZM-500 LASER Assault Rifle
'The Iranian reached back into the locker and got a pair of laserifles.'

LA Subway Scanner, As Seen In 'Total Recall'
'I'm afraid to tell you this Mr. Quaid, but you have suffered a schizoed embolism...'

Sion Electric Car Covered With Solar Panels
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'

PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."

Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'

DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.