DNA-Based Nanorobot Interacts with Live Cells

 By CONN HASTINGS

Researchers at INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale) in France, and collaborators, have developed a DNA-based nanorobot called the Nano-winch. The tiny creation is made using DNA molecules and a “DNA Origami” approach. The tiny robot is so small that it can land on a cell surface and interact with ‘mechanoreceptors’ that the cell uses to sense mechanical forces acting on it. 

The robots can apply tiny forces to the mechanoreceptors, allowing the researchers to measure the biochemical and molecular changes that result. While the technology is certainly useful for basic cellular research, it may also pave the way for similar nanorobots with medical applications, given its ability to interact with specific cellular receptors.       

It seems that every week someone develops a new nano- or microrobot that can perform tasks hitherto considered within the realm of science fiction. These breakthroughs could well herald a new era in medicine, with swarms of tiny machines performing an array of complex medical procedures within the body. This latest technology follows this trend, with the ability to land on the cell surface and delicately apply a tiny force to specific cellular receptors.  

The researchers describe their creation as a “programmable DNA origami-based molecular actuator” and have called it the Nano-winch. It consists of three DNA origami structures and can land on the cell surface and apply a force of 1 piconewton to a cellular receptor. To put this in perspective, this is 1 trillionth of a Newton, and 1 Newton is approximately the force exerted by your finger when you click the top of a pen.

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Researchers Build Nanoscale Flow-Driven Rotary Motor That Can Generate Mechanical Work

Researchers were puzzled to see the DNA rods organise themselves

THE ROTORS DRAW ENERGY FROM WATER THAT IS INDUCED BY APPLYING VOLTAGE OR BY HAVING DIFFERENT CONCENTRATIONS OF SALT ON EITHER SIDE OF THE MEMBRANE.

  • The team has used a technique called DNA origami for the motor
  • The study was recently published in Nature Physics
  • Development has opened new avenues in the engineering of active robots

Rotary motors that are driven by some flow are in use for a long time in windmills and waterwheels. A similar mechanism is also seen in biological cells where the FoF1-ATP synthase produces the fuel required by cells to function. Drawing inspiration from this, researchers at the Delft University of Technology have developed the smallest ever flow-driven motor from DNA that utilises electrical or salt gradients to generate mechanical energy. For the construction of the motor, the team has used a technique called DNA origami which uses specific interactions between complementary DNA pairs to build 2D and 3D nano-objects.

The rotors draw energy from water that is induced by applying voltage or by having different concentrations of salt on either side of the membrane. From the observations made, researchers have explored more and used the knowledge to build nanoscale turbines.

“Our flow-driven motor is made from DNA material. This structure is docked onto a nanopore, a tiny opening, in a thin membrane. The DNA bundle of only 7-nanometer thickness self-organises under an electric field into a rotor-like configuration, that subsequently is set into a sustained rotary motion of more than 10 revolutions per second,” explained Dr Xin Shi, a postdoc in the department of Bionanoscience at TU Delft. Dr Shi is also the first author of the study published in Nature Physics.

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South Korean researchers develop nanotech tattoos as health monitoring devices

Researchers in South Korea are developing a new health monitoring device in the form of an e-tattoo that can automatically alert the wearer to potential health problems.

The team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have created an electronic tattoo ink made of liquid metal and carbon nanotubes that effectively functions as a bioelectrode.

The device could be used to send a readout of the wearer’s vital signs if connected to biosensors, including for instance an electrocardiogram.

Alongside heart rates it could be used to read glucose or lactate levels for people with diabetes or sepsis.

But the researchers plan to do away with the biosensors and design the e-tattoo as a fully self-contained device.

“In the future, what we hope to do is connect a wireless chip integrated with this ink, so that we can communicate, or we can send signal back and forth between our body to an external device,” said the project leader Professor Steve Park.

The e-tattoo ink is non-invasive and doesn’t require a needle to be implanted beneath the skin like a traditional tattoo.

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Nanotechnology Advances Regenerative Medicine: Bone Formation Comes Down to the Nanowire

A cell cultured on top of the nanowire scaffold.

New nanotechnology that accelerates the transition of stem cells into bone could transform regenerative medicine.

A nanotechnology platform developed by King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) scientists could lead to new treatments for degenerative bone diseases.

The technique relies on iron nanowires that bend in response to magnetic fields. Bone-forming stem cells grown on a mesh of these tiny wires get a kind of physical workout on the moving substrate. They subsequently grow into adult bone considerably quicker than in conventional culturing settings, with a differentiation protocol that lasts only a few days rather than a few weeks.

“This is a remarkable finding,” says Jasmeen Merzaban, associate Professor of bioscience. “We can achieve efficient bone cell formation in a shorter amount of time,” potentially paving the way for more efficient regeneration of bone. Merzaban co-led the study together with sensor scientist Jürgen Kosel and colleagues from their labs.

The scientists analyzed the bone-producing capability of their nanowire scaffold, both with and without magnetic signals. They patterned the tiny wires in an evenly spaced grid and then layered bone marrow-derived human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) on top. Each of the tiny wires is about the size of the tail-like appendage found on some bacteria.

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Tiny nanobots in teeth can kill bacteria, help better dental treatment

DEVELOPED by the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, the nanonbots can be injected into the teeth and controlled using a device.

The team has tested the dental nanobots in mice models and found them to be safe and effective.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru have developed tiny nanobots that can be injected into the teeth to kill bacteria and better Root Canal Treatment (RCT). The latest ingenuity can better dental treatment by killing germs deep inside dentinal tubules.

RCT is a common technique to treat tooth infections, which involves removing the infected soft tissue inside the tooth, called the pulp, and flushing the tooth with antibiotics or chemicals to kill the bacteria that cause the infection.

In a new study, researchers at IISc have detailed the development of helical nanobots made of silicon dioxide coated with iron, which can be controlled using a device that generates a low-intensity magnetic field. The study has been published in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.

“The dentinal tubules are very small, and bacteria reside deep in the tissue. Current techniques are not efficient enough to go all the way inside and kill the bacteria,” Shanmukh Srinivas, Research Associate at the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering (CeNSE), IISc said.

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Caltech’s newest Smart Pill will one day track the nanobots in your body

Open Wide and Swallow

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

In the next two decades or so we will be increasingly exposed to nanobots that can perform extraordinary feats as they move around inside our bodies, but up until now there’s not been any way to track them.

The other day I made a Scouts honour pledge to the biologists and doctors among you that I’d write a piece on nanobot GPS tracking , yes, really, so here it is… In the future, if futurists like me are to be believed, hey no smirking at the back, we’re all going be quaffing both brain controlled nanobots and “regular” nanobots, that can perform surgery on us from the inside and identify diseases, like Cancer, before we show any symptoms, with our wine. Or beer. Whatever takes your fancy. However, while having all these little robotic critters roaming around our insides sounds great and all that there’s a problem with this wonderful utopian vision… how on Earth would we keep track of them all?

Well, now thanks to those spiffy guys and gals at Caltech a new chip that’s loaded with sensors and that can ping its location in the body could help us solve that issue, and one day it could be used to help us track our little friends as they meander around our insides in real time.

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This Micro-Sized Camera will Turn Nanorobots into Photographers

Nanorobotics, like graphene, have been trending topics in research for years but are still far from full industrial production. Everyone is aware of its potential, but the technical hurdles remain. Fortunately, research is progressing steadily. The latest invention that would allow the world’s tiniest robots to take a giant leap forward is a camera barely the size of a grain of salt.

Imagine for a moment that, instead of using a bulky CAT scan or intrusive endoscopy, an almost invisible robot could inspect your arteries or the most inaccessible corners of your heart. Those could be some of the of applications enabled by a new camera designed by scientists at Princeton University in the U.S. It is the size of a grain of salt and works in a radically different way from traditional lenses.

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Self-Healing Nanomaterials: Self-Repairing Electronics Are on the Way

Self-healing nanomaterials usable in solar panels and other electronic devices are being explored at the Technion.

From the Terminator to Spiderman’s suit, self-repairing robots and devices abound in sci-fi movies. In reality, though, wear and tear reduce the effectiveness of electronic devices until they need to be replaced. What is the cracked screen of your mobile phone healing itself overnight, or the solar panels providing energy to satellites continually repairing the damage caused by micro-meteorites?

The field of self-repairing materials is rapidly expanding, and what used to be science fiction might soon become reality, thanks to Technion – Israel Institute of Technology scientists who developed eco-friendly nanocrystal semiconductors capable of self-healing. Their findings, recently published in Advanced Functional Materials, describe the process, in which a group of materials called double perovskites display self-healing properties after being damaged by the radiation of an electron beam. The perovskites, first discovered in 1839, have recently garnered scientists’ attention due to unique electro-optical characteristics that make them highly efficient in energy conversion, despite inexpensive production. A special effort has been put into the use of lead-based perovskites in highly efficient solar cells.

The Technion research group of Professor Yehonadav Bekenstein from the Faculty of Material Sciences and Engineering and the Solid-State Institute at the Technion is searching for green alternatives to the toxic lead and engineering lead-free perovskites. The team specializes in the synthesis of nano-scale crystals of new materials. By controlling the crystals’ composition, shape, and size, they change the material’s physical properties.

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Pro-Longevity Molecules in ‘Young Blood’ Rejuvenate Aged Mouse Muscle

Researchers identify a crucial mediator of youthfulness for mouse muscle in membranous nanoparticles circulating the bloodstream, a discovery that could advance muscle regeneration therapies for older people.

By Jonathan D. Grinstein, Ph.D.

Highlights
·       Blood from young mice rejuvenates aged muscle through membrane-bound packages in the blood called extracellular vesicles (EVs). 
·        Aging affects the cargo carried by EVs, reducing mRNA levels that encode a pro-longevity protein called Klotho.
·        Injection of EVs containing Klotho mRNA improved muscle regeneration, copying the effects of blood from young mice on aged muscle.

From some freaky Frankenstein-like studies where researchers sowed together the blood vessels of young and old mice, allowing blood to exchange between the two rodents, researchers showed that circulating factors play a critical role in regeneration and rejuvenation. Beyond carrying oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to cells while removing waste products, like carbon dioxide, blood carries factors that affect the aging and function of stem cells and tissues, including muscle. While many of these factors have been identified as freely circulating proteins, studies have shown that there are membranous nanoparticles secreted from cells called extracellular vesicles (EVs), which traffic between anatomically remote sites and serve as biomolecule couriers.

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Researchers Create a Camera the Size of a Salt Grain Using Neural Nano-Optics

By Michelle Horton 

A team of researchers from Princeton and the University of Washington created a new camera that captures stunning images and measures in at only a half-millimeter—the size of a coarse grain of salt. 

Optical metasurfaces rely on a new method of light manipulation, using cylindrical posts set on a small, square surface. The posts, which vary in geometry, work like antennas that can capture incoming photons (waves of electromagnetic radiation). These waves are then sent as signals from the metasurface to a computer to interpret and produce an image.

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Scientists Developing Versatile ‘Nano Couriers’ for Future Medicine

Scientists from the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (NRNU MEPhI), as part of an international team, have created a nanoprobe for pinpoint drug delivery to affected body tissues.

According to the researchers, this development aims to create a universal means of targeted drug delivery for the effective treatment of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and several other pathologies. The research paper was published in the journal Nanomaterials. Targeted drug delivery to specific tissues and cells is one of the most pressing areas in the treatment of focal diseases, including heart and vascular pathologies, cancer, tuberculosis, both types of diabetes, and other maladies, said the MEPhI scientists.

This approach can be implemented through the use of nanoprobes, special structures capable of carrying a drug and special molecules to “target” the pathology centre. Each probe has to be compact, around tens of nanometres in size, with strictly defined physicochemical properties and as little toxicity as possible.

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Filming a 3-D video of a virus with ‘instantaneous light’ and AI

Elastic strain analysis Credit: POSTECH

by Pohang University of Science & Technology

It is millions of trillions of times brighter than sunlight and a whopping 1,000 trillionth of a second, appropriately called ‘instantaneous light’—the X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) light that opens a new scientific paradigm. Combining it with AI, an international research team has succeeded in filming and restoring the 3-D structure of nanoparticles that share structural similarities with viruses. With the fear of a new pandemic growing around the world due to COVID-19, this discovery is attracting attention among academic circles for imaging the structure of the virus with both high accuracy and speed.

An international team of researchers from POSTECH, National University of Singapore (NUS), KAIST, GIST, and IBS have successfully analyzed the structural heterogeneities in 3-D structures of nanoparticles by irradiating thousands of nanoparticles per hour using the XFEL at Pohang Accelerator Laboratory (PAL) in Korea and restoring 3-D multi-models through machine learning. The research team led by Professor Changyong Song and Ph.D. candidate Do Hyung Cho of Department of Physics at POSTECH has driven the international research collaboration to realize it.

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