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Functional 3D DNA nanorobots designed by computer-aided engineering

23 May 2021

DNA Departures

DNA holds the chemical instructions to make a life, but in the right hands it’s also a strong, versatile building material in its own right. DNA nanotechnologists have spent years exploring what’s mechanically possible with DNA molecules – similar to how architects and engineers must first learn about their materials so they can design with confidence. They’ve been discovering how different sequences stick together and how the DNA strands can be combined to increase strength, making hinges, rotors and poles. And just as architects now use computer-aided design software to speed up their work this DNA plane (70 billion times smaller than a jumbo jet) was designed in minutes rather than days, using new software called MagicDNA to simulate potential structures. With design speeding up, researchers hope to create increasingly sophisticated DNA robots, perhaps helping to sense processes inside the body and swooping down with a payload of life-saving drugs.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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