By emulating nature's design principles, a team at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has created nanodevices made of DNA that self-assemble and can be programmed to move and change shape on demand. In contrast to existing nanotechnologies, these programmable nanodevices are highly suitable for medical applications because DNA is both biocompatible and biodegradable.

The structures are folded and held in place with rigid double strands of DNA, called struts, and connected with single stranded DNA. The counteracting forces of compression and tension called tensegrity allows the structures to hold their shape but can be triggered to alter their shape by redistribution of the compression/tension forces.

This programmable ability to change shape would allow, among other

things, direct delivery of drugs to specific targeted cells. Working in ways similar to a virus it could deliver healthy DNA fragments that corrects hereditary disease or minimizes the aging effects. It could also target malignant cells and destroy them without harming healthy cells.

Targeting would allow a small fraction of the drug normally prescribed to be used which would minimize or eliminate drug side effects, at the same time, higher doses per target cell could be delivered.

This technology is, IMO, at the same level as the microprocessor of the early 1960's which became the personal computer within 20 years and in 50 years, has become the backbone of our communication and information systems and effects almost all other aspects of society. I would guess that the development of this technology will surpass the microprocessor in both time and impact on personal lives.


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Replies to This Discussion

Great article :) So the original circular piece of single-strand DNA is actually a synthesized DNA molecule with a particular sequence. This can easily self-assemble into a predetermined structure when more DNA is added that is of complimentary sequences. So cool!

One of the reasons to use DNA on stem cells, rather than some other synthetic material, is because a) it's biogenic and b) it's biodegradable. However, one thing to be careful about here is to make sure that the DNA is non-coding or non-sense. I am assuming this technique would be applied in vivo for the recreation of bone (or other tissue), and bacterial cells living in humans easily take up environmental DNA. We wouldn't want to inadvertently introduce any new genes into bacterial cells if we can help it. But I think usually researchers think of this.
There are probably some unforeseen complications , something that has to be considered in any new technologies, but that possibility has to be weighed against human benefit (not profit potential).
I do feel, however, that this development will have a greater impact than did antibiotics.


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