New molecular robot can be programmed to follow instructions

March 9, 2011

Scientists have developed a programmable "molecular robot" -- a sub-microscopic molecular machine made of synthetic DNA that moves between track locations separated by 6nm. The robot, a short strand of DNA, follows instructions programmed into a set of fuel molecules determining its destination, for example, to turn left or right at a junction in the track.

The report, which represents a step toward futuristic and nanofactories, appears in ACS's .

Andrew Turberfield and colleagues point out that other scientists have developed similar DNA-based robots, which move autonomously.

Some of these use a biped design and move by alternately attaching and detaching themselves from anchor points along the DNA track, foot over foot, when fuel is added.

Scientists would like to program DNA robots to autonomously walk in different directions to move in a programmable pattern, a key to harnessing their potential as cargo-carrying molecular machines.

The scientists describe an advance toward this goal — a that can be programmed to choose among different branches of a molecular track, rather than just move in a straight line.

The key to this specialized movement is a so-called "fuel hairpin," a molecule that serves as both a chemical energy source for propelling the robot along the track and as a routing instruction.

The instructions tell the robot which point is should move to next, allowing the selection between the left or right branches of a junction in the track, precisely controlling the route of the robot — which could potentially allow the transport of pharmaceuticals or other materials.

Explore further: Korea to sell programmable robot

More information: "A Programmable Molecular Robot", Nano Letters.

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4 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2011
Ray Kurzweil was and is right, I am sure that we will see advanced nanobots in our bodies in mid to late 2020's
not rated yet Mar 10, 2011
While I have no assumptions about this being the herald of a wondrous age of nanomachines, I still think this is a giant leap towards new and innovative solutions in medical science.

As the article depicts, these tiny machines could eventually be used to directly treat afflicted areas of the body on a cellular level, effectively circumventing most of the problems with today's treatments.

My thoughts are mostly on the field of cancer treatment, where the side-effects of chemotherapy can be quite destructive on the human body.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 10, 2011
As soon as even a single process is developed to enhance the function of our biological systems using nanobots, the abilities of our entire species will be multiplied in some fundamental way. I'd be surprised if no one was pursuing this goal doggedly, as it would result in ludicrous profits for whoever starts a business since every single person on earth would want it.

Oxygen transport 100x more efficient?
Programmable pathogen destruction which eliminates virtually all invasive disease?
Muscle, tendon and bone reinforcement/enhancement?
Transmitters and receivers in our brains?

The size of the market would naturally drive down price too, since making it affordable to the middle class would result in higher profits.
not rated yet Mar 14, 2011
left or right. You would have to be very sure of the correct path.

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