The Current State of Drug Delivery Using Nanotechnology: A Case for DNA Nanobots

Sep 8, 2023 | Drug Delivery, Targeted Therapy | 0 comments

The Current State of Drug Delivery Using Nanotechnology: A Case for DNA Nanobots

In recent years, nanotechnology has seen extensive applications across multiple disciplines, but its most transformative potential lies arguably in the realm of medicine—specifically in drug delivery. Yet, even within this subfield, not all nanotechnologies are created equal. DNA nanobots, an emergent class of drug delivery vehicles fabricated via DNA origami, represent an evolutionary leap in this area. This blog post aims to provide a layman-friendly explanation from a scientific standpoint, delving into the current state of drug delivery using nanotechnology and the unique advantages DNA nanobots offer.

A Brief Overview of Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery

Nanotechnology encompasses the manipulation of materials at an atomic or molecular scale, typically less than 100 nanometers. In drug delivery, this ability to control matter at such minute dimensions enables more precise and targeted administration of therapeutic agents. Traditional drug delivery vehicles like liposomes and polymer nanoparticles have been effective to a degree, but they often fall short in specificity and precision of design, which leads to systemic side effects.

The Limitations of Current Nanocarriers

Current nanocarriers like liposomes and polymer-based systems have shown promise, but they come with limitations. While they improve drug solubility and stability, their potential for targeted delivery has often been constrained by various biological barriers and non-specific uptake by cells. This lack of precision commonly results in a therapeutic window that’s either too narrow or too broad, leading to suboptimal outcomes. This is likely because of the lack of site-specific attachment and control of targeting moieties and subpar understanding of drug encapsulation or attachment.

Enter DNA Nanobots

This is where DNA nanobots distinguish themselves. Composed entirely of DNA strands assembled through a method called DNA origami, these nanobots can be programmatically designed to respond to very specific environmental cues—like certain cell surface markers. The result is a drug delivery system that can navigate the complex biological landscape with remarkable specificity towards their targets.

Targeted Therapeutics: The Next Frontier

The most revolutionary aspect of DNA nanobots is their ability for ‘smart’ drug delivery. Consider cancer treatment, where traditional chemotherapy drugs indiscriminately attack both cancerous and healthy cells, causing severe side effects. DNA nanobots can be engineered to recognize only cancer cells based on specific molecular markers and release their drug payload in a controlled or triggered manner. This level of specificity potentially reduces systemic toxicity while enhancing the therapeutic effect on the target cells.

Beyond Small Molecules: Proteins, Peptides, RNA and More

One of the most exciting facets of DNA nanobots is their versatility. While small-molecule drugs are certainly within their purview, these nanobots can also carry more complex bioactive substances, such as proteins, peptides, and RNA molecules. For instance, our very own Carlos Castro worked with Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna to use CRISPR to directly co-deliver Cas-9 functional pieces and the gene of interest and this is just scratching the surface.

Navigating the Complex Regulatory Landscape

Of course, like any nascent technology in healthcare, DNA nanobots face stringent regulatory requirements for safety and efficacy. Nevertheless, early studies are promising with Chris Lucas, Carlos Castro and I (Patrick Halley) recently publishing a comprehensive look at high dose DNA origami in mice showing that it was non-toxic. Additionally, given their programmable nature and biocompatibility, DNA Nanobots hold a unique position in overcoming many of the challenges that have hindered other nanocarriers.


While nanotechnology has already made significant strides in improving drug delivery, DNA nanobots represent a new rallying point in this continually evolving landscape. Offering unprecedented levels of specificity and adaptability, they stand to revolutionize not just cancer treatments but also therapies for a wide range of diseases, from genetic disorders to chronic conditions. There is a road to travel, filled with both scientific and regulatory hurdles, but the prospects are as exciting as they are transformative. As we continue to understand and manipulate matter at the nanoscale, one thing is clear: the future of medicine could very well be written in the language of DNA.

At DNA Nanobots we are experts in a field that is about to explode.  If you have a therapeutic that you want delivered, we would love to help you do that.  You provide the therapeutic, we provide the vehicle.  Contact us at or click below anytime.

by Patrick Halley, Co-Founder and CTO

Nanobot Drug Delivery
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