DNA Walker

Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin have built an autonomous nanoscale machine from DNA that’s able to walk across bumpy surfaces on the human body. Previous nanoparticle walkers were only capable of moving along programmed paths. This machine is able to walk in different directions over a DNA-coated surface unprogrammed. Professor Andrew Ellington of the Department of Molecular Biosciences said, "This is an important step forward in developing nanoscale nucleic acid machines that can autonomously act under a variety of conditions, including in the body."

Practical Application

“DNA walkers may eventually allow protective cells to walk the surface of organs, constantly computing whether a cancer is present,” says Ellington. The walkers could be deployed in the body to amplify signals from cancer cells, making it easier for doctors to identify and target them. Further applications could involve delivering nanoscale therapeutics directly to the affected cells. It’s made from a single piece of DNA and moves with two legs. It’s able to autonomously decide where to move without going over the same area twice. Ellington says that "DNA nanotechnology is especially interesting because it explores the world of 'matter computers,' where computations (including walking) are carried out by physical objects, rather than by electronic or magnetic shuttles.

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