Scientists from University of Bonn and Michigan have used interlocking rings of DNA to connect A Catenate Engine with it’s T7 RNA Polymerase Propeller to power the duo over single a strand of DNA track. In this process a tail of RNA is produced and the Protein powered DNA vessel travels about 240 nano-metres.
Picture credit Nature Magazine
Using DNA to create Two Wheels and a track is certainly an awe invoking accomplishment never mind using one wheel to rotate the other and propel it along. Induction engines also rotate a strator along a central rotor when fuel from the gas tank combusts.
In a sense this is more of a grey area of research between nano-robotics, genetic modification and bio-engineering as well as a step towards printing entire scaffolds of novel protein architecture.
What might be possible then?
Well the answer is a lot. They’ve basically replicated the first stages of life. In the future students of genetic engineering may be tasked with creating their own novel protein systems, perhaps equivalent to little cities with nano engineering or even entire cellular habitats and lifeforms via 3D printing.
A possibility that invokes both wonder and anxiety based on the potential for misuse. Such popular Netflix shows like Black Mirror and Altered Carbon capitalise on our collective angst regarding the continued acceleration of science technology, and though they may be entertaining science fiction dramas they are just that.
In reality technology is not inherently good or evil. Instead it us a tool. A tool is used to accomplish a task that is undertaken out for the purpose of a greater plan. Whether that plan is to improve humanites extant capabilities or transform us in to something completely different is important, and matters as far as where we take this exponential growth.
Some people may lack a plan, and so tools become a way of reacting to their environment, whether that be solving problems instead of preventing them or using the same tools for war that can be used for energy. At the very least we should work towards creating a better future for the next generation by invoking wonder as well as using the marvels of science and technology to heal people, and generally leave the world a better place then whence we came.
Whether or not you perceive these fascinating nano-structures as a way to create new forms of life or replace our own, – it is likely this technology will advance at first by treating some ill forsaken condition or demographic as that seems par to the course. In a sense this is similar to the proposal for nano-robotic scaffolds in the body that deliver medicine to the the body.