Shape-Shifting Molecular Robot Respond to DNA Signals

Shape-Shifting Molecular Robot Respond to DNA Signals
Schematic diagram of the molecular robot. Molecular actuators work inside the robot, and the shape of the artificial cell membrane, which are bodies, are changed. When a DNA signal is input, the "molecular clutch," which transmits the force from the actuator, controls the shape-changing behavior. (B) Microscopy images of molecular robots. When the input DNA signal was "stop," the clutch was turned "OFF," and consequently, the shape-changing behavior was terminated (left side). The initiation of the shape-changing behavior when the DNA signal input was "start" was also confirmed (right side). Scale bar: 20 ?m. The white arrow indicates the molecular actuator part that transforms the membrane. Credit: Yusuke Sato

The continues process of molecular nanotechnology has opened the door to molecular robotics. This uses molecules as robot components. By taking advantage of it, scientists from Tohoku University in collaboration with Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have developed a new molecular robot. The most mind-blowing feature of this robot is it can start and stop its shape-changing function in response to a specific DNA signal. Thus, scientists named it as a shape-shifting molecular robot.

According to scientists, this shape-shifting molecular robot could behave like living organisms.

Generally, molecular robots are built by integrating molecular machines. Such types of systems could lead to a bio-inspired robot designed on a molecular basis.

This time scientists have developed this new molecular robot in very small size. It has a size of about one millionth of a meter. Scientists composed molecular actuators and a molecular clutch in this robot. The molecular actuators consist of proteins while the molecular clutch composed of DNA. Due to its actuators, the robot can change its shape. At the other hand, the molecular clutch controls the force generated by the actuator.

Associate Professor Shin-ichiro Nomura said, “With more than 20 chemicals at varying concentrations, it took us a year and a half to establish good conditions for working our molecular robots. It was exciting to see the robot shape-changing motion through the microscope. It meant our designed DNA clutch worked perfectly, despite the complex conditions inside the robot.”

“This is for the first time, a molecular robotic system has been able to recognize signals and control its shape-changing function.”

It is expected that this shape-shifting molecular robot can expand the possibilities of robotics engineering. Scientists reported, this could help in technological developments to solve important medical issues. For example, a treatment robot for live culturing cells and a monitoring robot for checking environmental pollution.

Professor Dr. Friedrich Simmel said, “Based on this achievement, in the future similar systems could be developed that display artificial phototaxis or chemotaxis, or similar ‘intelligent’ behavior.”