A team from the California Institute of Technology unveiled their tiny robot, which has been crafted out of a single strand of DNA, and can enter the smallest of spaces including the bloodstream.
Lulu Qian, assistant professor of bioengineering, said: "Just like electromechanical robots are sent off to faraway places, like Mars, we would like to send molecular robots to minuscule places where humans can't go, such as the bloodstream. Our goal was to design and build a molecular robot that could perform a sophisticated nanomechanical task: cargo sorting.
"We don't develop DNA robots for any specific applications. Our lab focuses on discovering the engineering principles that enable the development of general-purpose DNA robots. However, it is my hope that other researchers could use these principles for exciting applications, such as using a DNA robot for synthesizing a therapeutic chemical from its constituent parts in an artificial molecular factory, delivering a drug only when a specific signal is given in bloodstreams or cells, or sorting molecular components in trash for recycling."
The DNA robot works by moving around a pegboard-type setting where the "pegs" are made of single strands of DNA, which complement the DNA on the robot's leg. The DNA then connects to the "leg", leaving the other one free to "step" to the next peg.
Former graduate student Anupama Thubagere added: "Though we demonstrated a robot for this specific task, the same system design can be generalized to work with dozens of types of cargos at any arbitrary initial location on the surface.One could also have multiple robots performing diverse sorting tasks in parallel."