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DNA robots can sort and move cargo

Artist's illustration of a DNA robot carrying different-colored cargo to different locations. (Credit: Ella Maru Studio / www.scientificillustrations.com)

Researchers at Caltech have created microscopic robots out of DNA that can transport and sort cargo, according to research published Thursday in Science. This is a big improvement on previous DNA robots, which were limited to moving in one direction or carrying one type of nanoparticle. The new robots can pick up two different colored dye molecules and deliver them to two different locations.

Why it matters: Researchers hope that one day DNA robots will be able to target cancer cells or deliver drugs to specific parts of the body. According to study author Lulu Qian, "It is one of the first steps toward developing the building blocks for general‐purpose DNA robots." She adds that it shows how seemingly complex tasks can be programmed with simple instructions.