Researchers pave the way for smart nanorobots

Wyss Institute Core Faculty member William Shih and Technology Development Fellow Steven Perrault explain why DNA nanodevices need protection inside the body, and how a virus-inspired strategy helps protect them.

It's a familiar trope in science fiction: In enemy territory, activate your cloaking device. And real-world viruses use similar tactics to make themselves invisible to the immune system. Now scientists at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have mimicked these viral tactics to build the first DNA nanodevices that survive the body's immune defenses.

The results pave the way for smart DNA nanorobots that could use logic to diagnose cancer earlier and more accurately than doctors can today; target drugs to tumors, or even manufacture drugs on the spot to cripple cancer, the researchers report in the April 22 online issue of ACS Nano.

"We're mimicking virus functionality to eventually build therapeutics that specifically target cells," said Wyss Institute Core Faculty member William Shih, the paper's senior author. Shih is also an associate professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and associate professor of cancer biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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