A novel type of nano-engine made of DNA has been developed by an international team of scientists.
It operates through a clever mechanism and is capable of executing pulsing movements. The researchers are currently in the planning stages of equipping it with a coupling system and integrating it as a drive component in intricate nanomachines.
The group's computer modelling tools have been used to gain insights into the design and operation of this leaf-spring nano-engine. This nano-engine has a structure comprised of almost 14,000 nucleotides, which are the basic building blocks of DNA.
Simulating motion in such a large nanostructure would have been impossible without oxDNA, the computer model employed for designing DNA nanostructures. This marks the first successful engineering of a chemically powered DNA nanotechnology motor.
This novel engine bears a resemblance to a hand grip strength trainer, which enhances the grip strength with regular use. However, this motor is approximately 1 million times smaller. Two handles are connected by a spring in a V-shaped structure, allowing for the contraction and expansion of the device.
The machine has an RNA polymerase attached to one of its handles. A DNA strand is strained or stretched between the two handles of the nanomachine. The RNA polymerase grabs onto the strained DNA strand and starts to copy it. As it moves along the strand, it progressively reduces the non-transcribed section, effectively reading and copying the DNA sequence. As the RNA polymerase moves along the DNA strand, the non-transcribed section gets smaller. Simultaneously, this pulling action brings the second handle closer to the first handle, compressing a spring located in the nanomachine.
DNA and RNA serve as fundamental molecules of life, playing crucial roles in various cellular processes. These roles include information storage, information transfer, and other applications, such as nanotechnology, where specially designed DNA and RNA strands are employed to construct nanoscale structures and devices. These applications hold significant promise in various fields, including diagnostics, therapeutics, molecular robotics, and the creation of novel materials.