Scientists create ‘nano-robot’ built from DNA

July 28, 2022

Researchers have developed a ‘nano-rono’ built from DNA that is capable of exploring cell processes. 

In the paper published in Nature Communications this week, researchers from Inserm, CNRS and Université de Montpellier at the Structural Biology Center in Montpellier say this is the first time that a human-made, self-assembled DNA-based object can apply force with such accuracy. 

The tool could prove valuable for basic research, as it could be used to better understand the molecular mechanisms involved in cell mechanosensitivity and discover new cell receptors sensitive to mechanical forces. Cell mechanosensitivity — cells' ability to move through receptors that are sensitive to mechanical forces — is involved in many diseases. For example, it is the mechanism through which cancer cells migrate within the body. While some technologies exist to study these mechanisms, the team says they can have cost and time limitations. 

Now the scientists proposed an alternative, using a DNA origami method. This allows for 3D nanostructures to self-assemble in a predefined way using the genetic material itself as the basis for construction. 

The scientists were able to develop a robot that enables in vitro and in vivo application of piconewton forces. The team was able to apply and control a force with a resolution of 1 piconewton, namely one trillionth of a Newton – with 1 Newton corresponding to the force of a finger clicking on a pen.