Introduction to DNA Nanobots: A Beginner’s Guide to What DNA Origami Nanobots Are and How They Can Revolutionize Drug Delivery

Sep 5, 2023 | Drug Delivery, Targeted Therapy | 0 comments

Introduction to DNA Origami Nanobots: A Beginner’s Guide to What DNA Nanobots Are and How They Can Revolutionize Drug Delivery

Advancements in nanotechnology have given rise to a variety of novel applications, not least among them is the field of DNA origami nanobots. Despite the term’s science-fiction allure, the concepts behind these molecular machines are firmly rooted in rigorous scientific principles and could usher in a new era of targeted therapeutics and diagnostics. For those who may find this subject novel, this article aims to provide an elucidative overview—albeit a beginner-friendly one—of the fundamental science behind DNA origami nanobots and their prospective applications in the medical field. 

Molecular Architecture: Understanding DNA Origami

DNA origami serves as the architectural framework for constructing these nanobots. To put it succinctly, DNA origami involves the design and folding of a single, long strand of DNA into a desired shape by means of short, ‘staple’ strands that hold the structure together. This allows for a highly programmable and customizable system that can be engineered to perform a range of functions, from holding a payload of drugs to recognizing specific types of cells to simple machine mechanisms at the nanoscale.  

What Are DNA Nanobots?

In essence, DNA nanobots are molecular devices fabricated through DNA origami techniques. Because they are composed of DNA, these nanobots are biocompatible, which is a crucial factor for any application involving interaction with biological systems. Once assembled, these nanobots can be programmed to respond to specific environmental triggers, such as pH changes, temperature variations, or even the presence of specific molecular markers. This adaptability makes them exceptionally well-suited for applications in targeted drug delivery and molecular diagnostics.  Our DNA nanobot journey started with Dr. Carlos Castro at The Ohio State University in the Nanoengineering and Biodesign Lab. We mix engineering, immunology, and biology in our world to build things that can help the world.   

The Promise of Targeted Drug Delivery

Traditionally, drug delivery systems have suffered from a lack of specificity, leading to off-target effects and suboptimal therapeutic outcomes. DNA nanobots offer a revolutionary approach to this issue through their ability for ‘intelligent’ drug delivery. These nanobots can be designed to recognize particular types of cells based on molecular markers unique to those cells. Upon recognition, they can release their payload directly at the target site, minimizing systemic side effects and maximizing therapeutic impact. 

For instance, consider a chemotherapy regimen. Traditional chemotherapy drugs are notorious for their non-specificity, affecting healthy cells as much as they do cancerous ones, leading to a host of side effects like hair loss and gastrointestinal issues. DNA nanobots can be programmed to recognize cancer cells specifically, delivering the chemotherapy drugs only to those cells and sparing the healthy ones.  

RNA, Peptides, and Beyond

The versatility of DNA nanobots extends beyond small-molecule drugs. They can be engineered to deliver a wide range of therapeutic agents, including peptides, RNA molecules for RNA interference (RNAi) therapies, and even entire genes for gene therapies. This ability to encapsulate various types of molecules broadens their applicability, potentially revolutionizing not just chemotherapy but also treatments for genetic disorders, chronic diseases, and infectious diseases.  


DNA origami nanobots represent a fusion of biotechnology and nanotechnology, offering unprecedented levels of control and specificity in medical applications. By leveraging the molecular programmability of DNA, these nanobots promise to overcome longstanding challenges in drug delivery, opening avenues for more effective and less harmful treatments. While there is much work yet to be done, both in terms of technological development and regulatory approval, the science is promising and the potential applications are transformative. For anyone interested in the future of medicine, this is a field worth watching closely. 

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

Targeted Drug Delivery
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