In a step toward creating tiny machines that can build complex structures from single molecules, researchers have built robots from cellular parts and used them to map microscopic structures more accurately than is possible with microscopes.

The robots are built from microtubules and motor proteins. In cells, microtubules are essentially tracks along which motor proteins travel with cargo.

“There are no ‘good’ artificial nanomotors,” says project leader Henry Hess of the University of Washington in Seattle. “We try to integrate solutions found by nature.”