Scientists claim breakthrough in building robots with DNA

A group of German scientists has found a way to build robots based on DNA. With a new technique, the possibilities for so-called ‘dna origami’ should be much greater, including self-assembling parts.

The new technology was developed at the Technische Universität München. The scientists describe their methods and results in the latest edition of the authoritative scientific journal Science. Normally, DNA strands are made on the basis of strong connections between complementary building blocks called A, T, C and G for abbreviation: an A matches a T and a C matches a G. The German researchers have found a way to combine pieces of DNA to mate correctly based on shape, resulting in weaker bonds and therefore more possibilities for assembly.

Due to this new way of binding building blocks, there is more control over the final shape and there is more flexibility. The scientists showed, among other things, that building blocks can change shape by simply adjusting the temperature. Parts can also be programmed in such a way that they eventually assemble themselves. With the described technology, there is a good balance between sturdiness and adaptability, according to the scientists.

Several nano-devices have already been demonstrated with the technique. For example, an actuator has been built, but also a nanorobot in the shape of a human being. The robot is an example of several building blocks that have assembled themselves. Ultimately, this form of ‘dna origami’ could be used to build sensors or transporters to deliver drugs to the right place in the body.