Researchers took a big step toward that future by developing a new tool that can design much more complex DNA robots and nanodevices than were ever possible before in a fraction of the time.
Someday, scientists believe, tiny DNA-based robots and other nanodevices will deliver medicine inside our bodies, detect the presence of deadly pathogens, and help manufacture increasingly smaller electronics.
Researchers from The Ohio State University – led by former engineering doctoral student Chao-Min Huang – unveiled new software they call MagicDNA. In a paper published on April 19, 2021, in the journal Nature Materials.
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.
The software has a variety of advantages that will help scientists design better, more helpful nanodevices and – researchers hope – shorten the time before they are in everyday use.
One advantage is that it allows researchers to carry out the entire design truly in 3D. Earlier design tools only allowed creation in 2D, forcing researchers to map their creations into 3D. That meant designers couldn’t make their devices too complex.
The software also allows designers to build DNA structures “bottom up” or “top down.”
In “bottom up” design, researchers take individual strands of DNA and decide how to organize them into the structure they want, which allows fine control over local device structure and properties.
But they can also take a “top down” approach where they decide how their overall device needs to be shaped geometrically and then automate how the DNA strands are put together.