A team of researchers from the University of Illinois has developed a nanoscale robotic hand made of DNA that can grasp small objects like gold nanoparticles or viruses. The hand was constructed using a method called DNA origami, in which a long strand of DNA is "stapled" together by shorter DNA pieces that pair with specific sequences on the longer strand. The four fingers of the hand are joined to a central palm and are just 71 nanometres long, with three joints each. The researchers conducted a series of experiments to demonstrate the grasping ability of the hand, including adding strips of complementary DNA to gold particles and adding extra bits of DNA that bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The nanohands were able to "grab" viruses and those that had been grabbed were unable to infect cells growing in a culture. The researchers are now exploring whether the devices could be used to get drugs into cells. One advantage of the nanohands is that they are more stable than normal DNA, which is broken down rapidly by enzymes in the blood. The researchers are currently conducting animal tests with different DNA nanostructures. Matthew Aquilina, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, called the design "really unique" and said it could inspire others.
DNA 'hand' may detect viruses at nanoscale