WASHINGTON, April 11 (Xinhua) -- American and Chinese engineers have created simple machines using DNA molecules, which are capable of metabolism, self-assembly and organization, three key traits of life.
The paper published on Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics described the biomaterial that can autonomously emerge from its nanoscale building blocks and arrange itself into chains of repeating DNA a few millimeters in size.
"We are introducing a brand-new, lifelike material concept powered by its very own artificial metabolism," said Luo Dan, professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University.
Starting from a 55-nucleotide base seed sequence, the DNA molecules were multiplied hundreds of thousands times, according to the study.
In a solution that can provide liquid flow of energy and building blocks for biological synthesis, the DNA machine grows at its front end while degrades at the tail end, thus making its own movement, creeping forward against the flow.
"We are not making something that's alive, but we are creating materials that are much more lifelike than have ever been seen before," said Luo.
The designs are still primitive, but the system is a first step of building lifelike robots by artificial metabolism, according to the researchers from Cornell University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics under Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"More excitingly, the use of DNA gives the whole system a self-evolutionary possibility," Luo said.
In the future, the system could be used as a biosensor to detect the presence of any DNA and RNA and the concept also could be used to create a dynamic template for making proteins without living cells.