April 23, 2024

The creation of complex devices will be possible with new software.

Scientists believe that one day, nanodevices and tiny DNA-based robots can deliver medicine into our bodies and detect deadly pathogens. They can also help us make smaller electronics.

Researchers made a significant step towards that future when they developed a tool that could design complex DNA robots and other nanodevices in half the time.

Researchers from The Ohio State University, led by Chao-Min Huang, a former engineering doctoral student, have revealed new software called MagicDNA in a paper published in the journal Nature Materials on April 19, 2021.

Researchers can use the software to design complex structures using tiny DNA strands. These complex structures include hinges and rotors, which allow for movement and can carry out a range of tasks, including drug delivery.

Carlos Castro, coauthor and an associate professor of mechanical- and aerospace engineering at Ohio State stated that researchers have been doing this for many years using slower tools and tedious manual steps.

Castro stated, “But nanodevices that may take us many days to design previously now take us only a few minutes.”

Researchers can now create nanodevices that are more complicated and more useful.

Hai-Jun Su, from Ohio State’s department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said, “previously, we were able to build devices with about six components, connect them with joints and hinges, and make them perform complex motions.”

Creating robots and other devices with up to 20 components is easy. This software makes it much simpler to control. This is a significant step forward in our ability to create nanodevices capable of performing complex tasks.

This software offers several benefits that scientists can use to design more valuable nanodevices, and researchers hope it will reduce the time required for them to be in daily use.

It allows researchers to design the entire thing in 3D. Designers used to create in 2D. Researchers had to convert their designs into 3D. This meant that designers could make devices simple enough.

Designers can also use the software to create “bottom-up” or “top-down” DNA structures.

Researchers organize individual DNA strands in a “bottom-up” design. This allows for fine control over the device’s structure and properties.

They can also use a “top-down” approach, determining how their device should be shaped and then automating the assembly of DNA strands.

Castro stated that combining the two can increase the complexity of the overall geometry and allow for precise control over the individual properties.

The software also allows simulations of how DNA devices designed for simulation can move and function in the real world.

Castro stated, “as these structures become more complex, it’s difficult to predict exactly how they will look and behave.”

It is crucial to be able to simulate how the devices will work. We need to save time.

Coauthor Anjelica Kucic, a doctoral candidate in chemical and biomolecular Engineering at Ohio State, led researchers in creating and characterizing numerous nanostructures created by the software.

They created robot arms to pick up smaller objects and a hundred-nanometer structure resembling an airplane. (The “airplane,” 1000 times smaller than a human hair, was one example of their inventions).

Castro stated that nanodevices could be more complex and perform multiple tasks with one device.

It is one thing, for example, to have a DNA robotic that can detect specific pathogens after being injected into the bloodstream.

He said a more sophisticated device could detect something wrong and react by releasing drugs or capturing the disease agent.

“We want robots that respond to a stimulus in a specific way or move in a particular way.

Castro anticipates that the MagicDNA software will be used in universities and other research laboratories over the next few years. However, its future use may expand.

He stated that DNA nanotechnology is gaining more and more commercial interest. “I believe that in the next five- to ten years, we will see commercial applications for DNA nanodevices. We are optimistic that this software can help us drive that.”

Reference: “Integrated computer-assisted engineering and design DNA assemblies” by Chao Min Huang, Anjelicakucinic, Joshua A. Johnson, and Hai-Jun Su, April 19, 2021, Nature Materials.

Joshua Johnson earned his Ph.D. in biophysics at Ohio State and was also a co-author.

Grants from the National Science Foundation supported this research.

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