A team of scientists from New York University (NYU) has created DNA-based nanobots that could one day replicate themselves exponentially.

Composed of just four DNA strands, the tiny DNA bots can reportedly replicate themselves one at a time by using their structure as a possible template.

Measuring around 100 nm, the nanobots could possibly number to roughly one thousand to fit the width of a human hair. Further, the nanobots are held in a solution featuring specific DNA strand raw materials necessary for them to work.

According to the NYU team, the nanorobots can reportedly assemble into 3D shapes using "multiple-axis precise folding and positioning." Additionally, the nanobots respond to externally controlled temperature and ultraviolet (UV) light in order to weld the 3D pieces together.

"By making use of externally controlled temperature and ultraviolet (UV) light, our programmable robot, ~100 nanometers in size, grabs different parts, positions and aligns them so that they can be welded, releases the construct, and returns to its original configuration ready for its next operation," the team explained. "Our robot can also self-replicate its 3D structure and functions, surpassing single-step templating (restricted to two dimensions) by using folding to access the third dimension and more degrees of freedom," the team added.

The nanobots could one day be used to produce drugs, enzymes or other chemicals within the cells of the body, the researchers concluded.

An article detailing the team’s findings, “Toward three-dimensional DNA industrial nanorobots,” appears in the journal Science Robots.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com