Human cells, like anything else, are subject to mechanical forces. Although these are absolutely tiny for our perception, they trigger and spread biological signals necessary for many processes in the body and its proper functioning – or non-functioning, and subsequently the development and spread of diseases.
Perhaps the closest example can be one of the five basic human senses – touch. Sensation is partly dependent on mechanical forces acting on specific cell receptors.
Two American biologists received the Nobel Prize for their discovery last year. What is important, however, is that these so-called “mechanoreceptors” also enable the regulation, i.e., the regulation of other key physiological processes, which include, in addition to the perception of pain, the contraction of blood vessels, of course also breathing or even the functioning of other senses such as hearing, i.e. the detection of sound waves in ear.
Dysfunction of this cellular sensitivity to mechanical forces accompanies a number of diseases, including cancer. In doing so, tumor cells spread in the human body in a way that biologists describe as “resonating and constantly adapting to the mechanical properties of the environment.”
Such adaptation is only possible if the mechanoreceptors of cells other than those of cancer detect the action of specific forces, and then release and transmit their information to the cytoskeletons of these healthy cells, i.e. to bundles of protein fibers that serve for their support, as well as division and transport substances.
It saves money, time and work
Scientists’ knowledge of such mechanisms occurring at the microscopic level is currently still very limited. Technologies that would trigger controlled forces in molecular processes and enable their investigation are already available, but they are also very expensive and scientists still cannot use them to study several cell receptors at once, so they require a lot of time and work to collect a large amount of data.
But a scientific team led by Gaëtan Bellot from the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) came up with an alternative. Their so-called “DNA origami method” uses a comprehensive database, programming and input to create 3D nanostructures by itself, using DNA molecules as the building material.
The technique of French scientists has enabled huge advances in the field of nanotechnology over the last ten years, writes Advertiser. And in collaboration with other biologists from the largest European research and development organization (CNRS) in Paris and the Center for Structural Biology (CBS) in Montpellier, it finally allowed them to design a nanorobot that is made of three of these “origami DNA structures.”
The greatest accuracy that scientists have achieved
At nanometers in size, the robot is compatible with the size of a human cell, allowing researchers for the first time to create a mechanical force of one piconewton, the equivalent of a trillionth of a newton, or for a better picture, the effort a finger exerts when pressing a pen. You’ve never seen such precision before supposedly did not reach
A highly innovative nanorobot could thus enable a closer study of mechanical forces acting at the microscopic level. A new study about him imprinted and the renovated journal Nature Communications. A team of French scientists began their research by pairing it with a molecule capable of recognizing a mechanoreceptor, so that they could then direct it to certain human cells and test not only how to activate them, but also at what moment, when acting on their sensors, signals are created and propagated that are key to biological and pathogenic, or disease-causing processes.
“The design of a robot capable of in vitro (under artificial laboratory conditions) as well as in vivo (in a living organism) application of piconewton forces is a response to a growing demand from the scientific community and represents a significant technological advance,” explained Bellot.
“However, the biocompatibility of the robot, in addition to being advantageous for in vivo tests, can mean a weakness due to its susceptibility to enzymes that destroy DNA. So our next step will be to study how to modify its surface to make it more resistant to enzyme action. And we will also try to figure out some other ways of activating it, such as with the help of a magnetic field,” he added.
How the French nanorobot purely made of DNA works and what exactly it consists of can be seen in the opening video of this article.