The nanoscale train now leaving: Scientists develop system for carrying molecular 'cargo' along DNA tracks


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The Independent Online

A nanoscale train set powered by microscopic motors and controlled by DNA has been developed by scientists.

The system can construct its own network of tracks spanning tens of micrometres in length, and use them to transport “cargo”. Scientists at Oxford University built their set from DNA and the motor protein kinesin.

The kinesin molecules, that move along micro-tracks made from short strands of DNA, are used as “assemblers” that move elements of track around, or “shuttles” that carry cargo molecules along the tracks.

A natural fuel source called ATP is used to power the system. “DNA is an excellent building block for constructing synthetic molecular systems, as we can programme it to do whatever we need,” said Adam Wollman, who led the Oxford University team.

The experiment used green dye as a cargo, but the same technique could be used to transport other molecules. Spoke-like track systems could be used to speed up chemical reactions by concentrating necessary compounds at the central hub, said the scientists.

Using DNA to control motor proteins could aid the development of sophisticated self-assembling systems for a wide variety of applications.