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The cell is an adaptive and complex system that drives the basic processes of life. These intricately efficient systems function independently, or coalesce with other cells in our bodies to produce higher-order intelligent functionalities and structures. In fact, the cell is one of the most efficient autonomous microscale "robotic systems" and is comprised of millions of nanoscale molecular machineries, i.e. hardware, such as DNA/RNA and proteins. Furthermore, the cellular processes are results of these molecular machines working in concert governed by complex regulatory circuitry, i.e. software. Interacting synergistically among the hardware and software, the cell functions continuously over a broad range of time scales and span length scales by three orders of magnitude, nanometers to microns. For therapeutic or basic research purposes, it is necessary to manipulate cellular functions. The challenge obviously lies in the complexity of the system, millions of various types of nanoscale machineries and regulatory circuitries still beyond comprehension. The recently developed nano/micro technology based transducers can match the length scale of molecules and cells. As such, the direct interrogation and manipulation of these cellular functions in real-time has become possible. We have demonstrated that properly designed micro/nano robotic systems can direct the cellular functionalities across multiple length scales to efficiently reach the desired control state. This may yield new insight into unlocking and acquiring novel control modalities of the underlying mechanisms that drive the natural processes of life.
Date of Conference: Oct. 2006