Thursday, May 13, 2010

#DNA #Robots to Hunt & Kill #Cancer, Other Pathogens

Assembling a molecular sized robot--called a "spider"--was demonstrated by a team of researchers using DNA. Look for DNA nano-robots that detect disease markers on a cell, diagnosis it and deliver a cargo of cancer-killing drugs as appropriate within three years. R.C.J.

Here's what the researchers say about their own work: A team of scientists from Columbia University, Arizona State University, the University of Michigan, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have programmed an autonomous molecular "robot" made out of DNA to start, move, turn, and stop while following a DNA track. The development could ultimately lead to molecular systems that might one day be used for medical therapeutic devices and molecular-scale reconfigurable robots---robots made of many simple units that can reposition or even rebuild themselves to accomplish different tasks...Shrinking robots down to the molecular scale would provide, for molecular processes, the same kinds of benefits that classical robotics and automation provide at the macroscopic scale. Molecular robots, in theory, could be programmed to sense their environment (say, the presence of disease markers on a cell), make a decision (that the cell is cancerous and needs to be neutralized), and act on that decision (deliver a cargo of cancer-killing drugs). Or, like the robots in a modern-day factory, they could be programmed to assemble complex molecular products. The power of robotics lies in the fact that once programmed, the robots can carry out their tasks autonomously, without further human intervention...With that promise, however, comes a practical problem: how do you program a molecule to perform complex behaviors?
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