Bio-Inspired Engineering and Bionanotechnology

I'm Dr. Katherine Dunn. I'm a lecturer in the 
School of Engineering at the University of   Edinburgh. The overall goal of my research program 
is to reengineer biological molecules and systems   to use them in technologies that 
solve real world problems such as   those in the areas of medicine and energy. Biology, in many ways, processes a lot of 
information. Some people refer to life as   a form of an information processing system, and we 
can take inspiration from that to design new ways   of processing information for synthetic purposes 
– so essentially doing with biological molecules   or living cells what we might try and do with 
transistors and circuit boards. Essentially,   we can reengineer biological 
molecules or even living cells   to process information according to certain 
rules and produce an output in a useful form. [00:01:10] Whatever problems we are trying to 
solve it's quite likely that somewhere nature has   tried to solve a problem that's very similar. 
So whether that's plants absorbing energy from   sunlight to make their own food or animals 
managing to swim or fly or walk in an   optimal manner, there is some form 
of inspiration there for us to   drawn on.

Biology is extremely efficient because 
it's had millions of years to get things right. So   rather than us spending lots of time to try and 
work on multiple solutions, it makes sense for   us to borrow from nature, to take inspiration 
from nature and essentially learn from the best. Most people think about DNA as an information 
storage molecule in living things.

The   recipe book of life if you will. However, it's 
actually possible to take DNA completely out   of its biological context and use it 
as a nanoscale engineering material.   When we do that, we can design pieces of DNA 
that will assemble themselves spontaneously   into physical structures on the nanoscale that 
can do, in principle, whatever we design them   to do – within certain limits, of course. In the 
context of drug delivery, that could mean that we   make a hollow structure out of DNA, put a drug 
inside it, and design triggers that will open   the structure and deliver the drug only in the 
presence of cells that actually need the drug.

Bioinspired technologies could help us to solve 
many of the most pressing problems of the 21st   century, help us to live longer, perhaps to live 
in a manner that is less damaging to our planet,   perhaps even to fix some of the damage that's 
already been caused to the planet. If we look   to nature, we can learn so much about how 
to do things better and more efficiently.   I think we'd be foolish not to take 
advantage of that as a source of inspiration..

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