Researchers have created nanobots — on the order of nanometers, or one-billionth of a meter — that have the ability to follow specific instructions, making them programmable.
Nanotechnology just got a little bit smarter.
At the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, Ido Bachelet led a team of scientists in building tiny robots that can respond to chemical cues and operate inside a living animal. More than that, they can operate as logic gates, essentially acting as real computers.
That gives the nanobots — on the order of nanometers, or one-billionth of a meter — the ability to follow specific instructions, making them programmable. Such tiny robots could do everything from target tumors to repair tissue damage.
The experimenters used a technique called "DNA origami" to make the robots. DNA comes in a double-helix shape, making long strings. And like yarn, the strings can be linked together to make different shapes. In this case, the researchers knitted together DNA into a kind of folded box with a lid, a robot called an "E" for "effector." The "lid" opened when certain molecules bumped into it. [Code of Life: Photos of DNA Structures]
The robots were injected into a Blaberus discoidalis cockroach, a species commonly used as pet food for reptiles. Inside each "box" was another chemical, which recognized the hemolymph cells, which are the cockroach's version of white blood cells. The chemical in the box would bind to the blood cells.
But instead of just injecting one kind of robot, the scientists used four: "E," "P1," "P2," and "N."
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