Nanorobots being Developed to Replace Problematic DNA

By Earl Boysen, Nancy C. Muir, Desiree Dudley, Christine Peterson

Early nanotechnology research into controlling sickle cell disease at the DNA level may prove applicable in other genetic disorders. Various types of proteins are capable of repairing cells. Proteins actually cut out segments from defective DNA strands, and then other proteins regrow the DNA strand to match neighboring, nondefective DNA.

The Nanomedicine Center for Nucleoprotein Machines is one organization dedicated to finding ways to treat damaged DNA. Instead of building cellular repair robots from scratch, this center is working on reengineering the proteins that currently repair defective DNA to produce nanomachines that can do the same work. In fact, the Nucleoprotein Machines in the Center’s name relates to the fact that proteins are Nature’s workhorses for repairing damaged DNA.

Nucleoprotein is the term for a protein that is attached to a nucleic acid, such as DNA.

The Center is testing its methods on sickle-cell disease in mice. Sickle-cell disease is a genetic disease that causes red blood cells to have an abnormal shape that moves through the bloodstream less easily than normally shaped red blood cells. This condition causes anemia.

Sickle cell is a painful disease that shortens life and currently has no known cure. The Center uses mice and models of sickle-cell disease to find a way to repair the mutated gene that causes it.