A team of researchers from New York University has achieved a groundbreaking development in the form of DNA-based nanobots with the potential for exponential self-replication. Lead researcher Feng Zhou and his team have designed these nanobots, consisting of just four DNA strands each, capable of copying themselves one at a time using their own structure as a template. Measuring around 100 nanometers, these DNA nanobots could pave the way for the creation of life-saving drugs within the human body.

The nanobots, created with specific DNA strands, are immersed in a solution containing the necessary raw materials for their function. Developed through collaboration between scientists from New York University, the Ningbo Cixi Institute of Biomechanical Engineering, and The Chinese Academy of Sciences, these nanorobots exhibit the ability to assemble pieces into three-dimensional shapes, a significant improvement over previous attempts limited to two-dimensional structures. The researchers utilized “multiple-axis precise folding and positioning” controlled by external temperature and ultraviolet (UV) light to access the third dimension and more degrees of freedom.

In their study published in Science Robotics, the team highlighted the nanobots’ unique features, including their capability to self-replicate their entire 3D structure and functions. This groundbreaking advancement opens up possibilities for manufacturing drugs, enzymes, and other chemicals directly within the body’s cells.

While researchers, including Andrew Surman from King’s College London, see the significant potential of these nanobots in drug and chemical manufacturing, concerns have been raised about the technology’s unchecked development. The “Gray Goo Scenario” poses the hypothetical risk of self-replicating nanobots exponentially converting organic matter into an uncontrollable legion. However, the current DNA nanobots are designed with limitations, requiring external control of temperature and UV light for their actions. This ensures they cannot reproduce without precise DNA fragments and UV light, alleviating concerns about unchecked replication.

By Impact Lab