COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Nano robots can be built faster than ever thanks to new software, but they are still a long way off toward applications for vaccines.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Materials, researchers from The Ohio State University – led by former engineering doctoral student Chao-Min Huang – unveiled new software they call MagicDNA.
The software helps researchers design ways to take tiny strands of DNA and combine them into complex structures with parts like rotors and hinges that can move and complete a variety of tasks, including drug delivery.
Researchers have been doing this for a number of years with slower tools with tedious manual steps, said Carlos Castro, co-author of the study and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State.
Thanks to the software, researchers can make much more complex – and useful – nanodevices.
For example, it is one thing to have a DNA robot that, after injection into the bloodstream, can detect a certain pathogen. But a more complex device may not only detect that something bad is happening, but can also react by releasing a drug or capturing the pathogen.
“In the community what people are discussing and building towards are better medicines, better sensors, new materials,” Castro explained to NBC4i. “For my own lab, we’re funded by NIH…That’s geared toward improving a better understanding of cardiovascular diseases, drugs, or new methods to treat cardiovascular diseases, or cancer metastasis, things like that.”
Castro sees a tremendous potential for exciting and good impacts on society, even though some not-so-well-informed people fear nanorobotics.
Some of the devices they created included robot arms with claws that can pick up smaller items, and a hundred nanometer-sized structure that looks like an airplane (The “airplane” is 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair).
The ability to make more complex nanodevices means that they can do more useful things and even carry out multiple tasks with one device, Castro added.
“We love to build the field, we love to bring new people into the field in a positive way. The university is well controlled, all these institutions are well controlled.
“DNA has interesting potential for next generation, new generations of vaccine, but there is certainly no direct connection at all right now to the COVID vaccine…things toward drug delivery, towards new biosensors, for diagnostics,” Castro said.
“Previously, we could build devices with up to about six individual components and connect them with joints and hinges and try to make them execute complex motions,” said study co-author Hai-Jun Su, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State in a press release.
“With this software, it is not hard to make robots or other devices with upwards of 20 components that are much easier to control. It is a huge step in our ability to design nanodevices that can perform the complex actions that we want them to do,” Su explained.