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Robot made from DNA could tell cancer cells to self-destruct

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Scientists at Harvard's Wyss Institute have created a nanorobot made of folded DNA that is capable of recognizing and attaching to cancer cells, delivering orders to self-destruct.

DNA Robot
DNA Robot

Were you worried that all cancer-fighting robots looked as terrifying as this one? If so, a team from Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University is here to put your fears to rest. Using a technique that folds DNA into unique structures, researchers have created a barrel-like nanorobot that can bind to cancer cells and deliver messages telling them to self-destruct. In an experiment, the researchers successfully coded the robots to look for lymphoma and leukemia cells and attach to them, even when they were surrounded by a large number of harmless "bystander" cells.

The structure, shown above, is designed like a hinged barrel that protects fragments of antibodies or other materials stored inside. From there, it's programmed to attach to certain kinds of cells using a pair of DNA sequences that can recognize patterns in the target cell. Once it attaches, it can open up to deliver its payload. However, although the robots were inspired by the body's natural immune response, our immune systems aren't so accepting — if released into the human body, the nanorobots would be cleared out quickly, meaning that researchers will have to find a way to tweak them to seem less like foreign objects. Currently, the team is looking at starting testing in mice. If you're interested in reading the full paper, you can find it in PDF form at the source link below.