When we take pills, we know exactly what they are for. Medicines for chronic illnesses try to mend a specific organ: heart, liver, kidney, etc. Few types of medicine can be used to affect just a specific part of the body. A new invention by a team of researchers from Oxford University uses tiny shuttles the size of molecules to transport medicine to specific locations in the body. These shuttles could also be used to transport molecular materials to places where new structures must be built.
The researchers decided to use DNA and kinesin, a motor protein, in order to create the system. An “assembler nanobot” was created by putting two kinesin molecules together. The nanobot then built micro-tracks out of strands of artificial, non-living DNA. Afterwards, these tracks were arranged in a pattern that resembled a wagon wheel with spokes.
The kinesin molecules were then used as shuttles. They acted like boxcars and transported a fluorescent, green dye. Adenosine triphosphate commonly known as ATP was used to “power up” the boxcars. As a result, the kinesin molecules started carrying the green dye along the hub and spokes.
After they settled into place, ATP was added once more. This time the shuttles moved to the central hub of the wheel. The process can also be reversed. By using a signaling molecule, the kinesins know to take the dye out of the central hub and release it. Other signaling molecules tell the shuttles to break the path after they finish using it.
Even though the experiment used dye, other molecules could take its place in the future. In time, other compounds such as medicine could be transported along to specific parts of the body. This will lead to a greater accuracy in treating several illnesses or building new structures.
Do you think this experiment could end with the discovery of new cures?
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