Our bodies contain billions of biological motors that carry out specific tasks to keep our cells functioning. The motors are called proteins and scientists have been looking for ways to mimic their capabilities.

Now researchers at Purdue University have found a way to use DNA as a kind of synthetic motor, capable of moving nanoparticles of cadmium disulfide along a carbon nanotube. It took the DNA-based motor 20 hours to travel the distance of 7 microns — not exactly fast — but the DNA can be programmed and controlled, turned on or off, whereas a natural protein cannot. The control could be useful for delivering drugs to specific areas in the body or it could be used for industrial purposes, for assembling molecules or processing chemicals.

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The new motor is made from a core of enzymes and has two arms made from DNA. The arms pull the core forward, harvesting energy from other molecules called RNA sprinkled across the nanotube.

“Our motors extract chemical energy from RNA molecules decorated on the nanotubes and use that energy to fuel autonomous walking along the carbon nanotube track,” Jong Hyun Choi, a Purdue University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, said in a press release.

Choi and his colleagues think they can speed up the motor by changing the temperature and pH, a measure of acidity. THey published their results in this weeks Nature Nanotechnology.

via Futurity

Credit: Science Picture Co./Corbis