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Medtech Impact on Wellness

Many of us have fond memories of playing with Lincoln Logs and Legos as children, constructing cities and vehicles and whatever else we felt like we needed. As an assistant professor of mechanical engineering with courtesy appointments in biomedical engineering as well as electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Rebecca Taylor gets to play out a version of those memories every day in her lab.

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How? By engineering and developing control schemes for ‘DNA origami’—tiny DNA-based electromechanical systems from which rafts or giant bundles or elastic hinges or any number of other conformations and features can be made. Once programmed to follow a certain pathway, these systems essentially build themselves, making for immensely powerful tools in bioengineering.

Dr. Taylor joins the podcast to discuss how exactly DNA origami works and the specific projects her lab is currently working on, which include the creation of microswimmers—tiny robots capable of swimming through the smallest passageways in the human body, such as capillaries measuring eight microns in diameter. Using DNA technology, Dr. Taylor and her team are able to control the assembly of these systems, dictating the level of stiffness, and where and how they’ll function in the body.

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The future direction of Dr. Taylor’s work will focus on engineering DNA origami that could act like molecular chaperones, facilitating their own more complex assemblies and changing shape dynamically, bending, twisting, carrying, and moving things into position in order to fulfill a variety of roles within the body.

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