Efforts to use protein molecular motors as nanoactuators are making rapid progress. For instance, it is now possible to carry out directional transport of small cargo along microtracks or microchannels using kinesin-microtubule systems, which could be the basis of micro-conveyor belts or molecular shuttles. However, the applicability of protein-based devices is limited by their poor stability in artificial environments. In addition, assembly of complex, intelligent microdevices or systems will likely require bottom-up self-assembly, and we still do not have sufficient knowledge to rationally design self-assembling protein-based microdevices or systems. One approach to solving the problems associated with protein-based systems is to use DNA-based nanodevices, which are amenable to rational design. Indeed, ingenious design has enabled realization of DNA-based nanoactuators and self-assembled micropatterns of various shapes. One also could use cells, organelles, or tissues as preassembled motile units, and several motile devices have already been realized using this approach. In addition to being less prone to the assemaly problems, cell-based microdevices have the advantage that the motile units reproduce themselves, and genetically encoded functional modifications can be replicated effortlessly. These protein-based, DNA-based, and cell-based systems each have distinct advantages and disadvantages, so that hybrid devices combining the best characteristics of all three would seem the most likely to succeed.
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