This illustration depicts the walking mechanism of a new type of DNA motor that researchers have demonstrated by using it to transport a nanoparticle along the length of a carbon nanotube.Image Credit: Purdue University image/Tae-Gon Cha
Researchers have created a new type of molecular motor made of DNA and demonstrated its potential by using it to transport a nanoparticle along the length of a carbon nanotube. The design was inspired by natural biological motors that have evolved to perform specific tasks critical to the function of cells, said Jong Hyun Choi, a Purdue University assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Whereas biological motors are made of protein, researchers are trying to create synthetic motors based on DNA, the genetic materials in cells that consist of a sequence of four chemical bases: adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. The walking mechanism of the synthetic motors is far slower than the mobility of natural motors. However, the natural motors cannot be controlled, and they don't function outside their natural environment, whereas DNA-based motors are more stable and might be switched on and off, Choi said. "We are in the very early stages of developing these kinds of synthetic molecular motors," he said. The new motor has a core and two arms made of DNA, one above and one below the core. As it moves along a carbon-nanotube track it continuously harvests energy from strands of RNA, molecules vital to a variety of roles in living cells and viruses.