DNA Nanorobot programmed to seek and destroy cells.
Researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Insitute have created a barrel shaped structure out of DNA, which is capable of carrying a payload through the body and opening to release it when it finds certain types of cells.
Using the DNA origami method, in which complex three-dimensional shapes and objects are constructed by folding strands of DNA, the barrel 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.
The work is a described as a “major breakthrough in the field of nanobiotechnology”, as it will be able to “meet a real-world challenge, namely killing cancer cells with high specificity”. By using biocompatible DNA nanotechnology, the system will be able to naturally dissolve in the body, lessening the side effects compared to traditional drugs. Because it is able to target specific cells, far smaller doses of drugs will be able to be given, while still increasing their effectiveness.