DNA origami: Nanorobots grab cellular control

Johann Elbaz, Itamar Willner

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Self-assembled barrel-like DNA nanostructures carrying active payloads and pre-programmed with logic operations to reconfigure in response to cell-surface cues can trigger a variety of intracellular functions. The clasps are held together by DNA duplexes to form a clam-shaped nanostructure, which provides a reservoir for the payload, and the DNA duplexes comprise aptamer sequences that act as 'locks' for the clamshaped container. In particular, clam-shaped robots locked by pairwise combinations of specific aptamer sequences targeting lymphocytic NK-type leukaemia (NKL) cells were activated by the cells in tissue culture, and stopped NKL cell growth when loaded with a mixture of antibodies known to induce growth arrest in such cells. Functional nanorobots constructed from nucleic acids hold great promise in nanomedicine. The ability to control the configuration of the robots through the use of specific cell markers and to direct them to target cells by means of autonomous logic operations may lead to treatments that target cancer cells with high sensitivity and specificity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-277
Number of pages2
JournalNature Materials
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


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