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German Scientists Create Ultrafast Robot Arms from DNA

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Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany have given a big boost to DNA-based robotic systems by using electric fields to speed up their movements by five orders of magnitude over previous DNA systems.

Prior to this work, which the German scientists descibe in today’s issue of the the journal Science, the main issue preventing previous DNA-based molecular machines from operating faster was that they were dependent on DNA’s molecular cues.

For example, most DNA-based molecular machines previously were operated by a variety of DNA molecular manipulations, including DNA hybridization with externally added DNA “fuel strands,” the action of DNA-cutting enzymes, a change in buffer conditions (such as pH levels), or the use of chemical photoswitches, like azobenzene, that can collect light to trigger reactions.