A tiny hand made of DNA has jointed fingers that can be used to grasp small objects like gold nanoparticles or viruses, according to a new study. The four fingers of the nanohand are attached to the “palm”; to form a cross when the hand is open: each finger is only 71 nanometers long and has three joints, just like a human finger.
A team of researchers led by Xing Wang from the University of Illinois, in the United States, built a nanoarm using a method called “DNA origami”, in which one long strand of DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid is interlaced with shorter pieces of DNA, which then pair with specific sequences on the longer strand. This “robotic hand & rdquor; it could be used to extract and remove viruses, among other potentially important applications.
Although the same method can be used to create complex shapes and objects of various sizes, from maps to spinning nanoturbines, this time it was used to create small robotic hands, researchers explain in a new study recently published in the online repository Biorxiv.
Why choose DNA as a material? That’s what the experts explained DNA has shown great biocompatibility, programmable mechanical properties and nanometer-scale structural addressability, making it a versatile material for building high-precision nanorobotics for biomedical applications. This made it an ideal option in this case.
According to an article published in New Scientist, scientists conducted a series of experiments with the goal check the grip ability of the nanoarms: for example, they added gold particles 50 to 100 nanometers wide into the structure, and the fingers of tiny robotic hands were able to grasp and remove these particles.
In another very important test, they added additional pieces of DNA that bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is responsible for the latest coronavirus pandemic. Nanohands have proven capable to extract viruses and prevent infection of cells growing in culture.
Additional features and durability
In addition to the grasping capabilities demonstrated by the DNA robotic hands, Wang and his colleagues also proposed a function for the nanohands emit fluorescence when they bind to a particular virus, something that could help detect such infectious agents in different contexts. Now they are investigating the possibility of how the device could be used administer medication in cells, which would be another key function in health.
One of the advantages of nanoarms for these types of applications is that normal DNA is quickly broken down by enzymes in the blood, but DNA origami structures are more stable, thereby favoring its use in the human body. Moreover, it is possible to “customize” them & rdquor; to make their use last even longer ultraviolet light: This creates additional bonds between DNA strands.
Designer DNA NanoGripper. Lifeng Zhou, Xing Wang et al. Biorxiv (2023). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.04.26.538490
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