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Human Achievement of the Day: Nanospiders in Your Blood

In his writings, noted futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil has said that he believes human technology will one day reach a point where the human life expectancy will be radically extended, resulting in near immortality. In a 2009 interview with Computerworld, Kurzweil put the date at which immortality could be achieved somewhere around 2040 or 2050 thanks to the ever-quickening pace of technological development and the rise of nanotechnology that will repair or even replace parts of the human body. Kurzweil may have overshot that date by a few decades, as today’s human achievement is the invention of nanospiders that can crawl along human DNA and change it.

DNA nanospiders, created by Columbia University scientists, are small robots (about 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair) made of DNA molecules. As ScienceNews reports:

The “arachnoid nanobots” have three to four legs and walk across expansive landscapes of exquisitely folded DNA. Some of these molecular machines can take 50 steps all by themselves.  Others sport wiggly arms that can pick up and carry around nanoparticles.

Their purpose is to get DNA molecules to organize themselves and the spiders are powered by the natural DNA-DNA interactions programmed into their foundation. The spiders move along DNA“origami.” Created in 2006 by Caltech synthetic molecular biologist Paul Rothemund, DNA origami is an engineered strand of DNA that acts like a railroad track f or the spiders to move along and do their work.

Scientists hope the nanobots will one day do things like seek and destroy cancers in the human body, assemble nano-sized medical devices, and build tiny computers vastly smaller than current technology. According to the Daily Mail, the spiders can be programmed to sense the environment around them and react accordingly. They can already detect known disease markers on a cell surface, identify if it is a health threat, and then bring in a compound to destroy it.