Method to form DNA hydrogels and shape changing devices and actuators

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Unmet Need
Materials and devices capable of changing their shape are critical to the function of soft robots, programmable matter, and smart therapeutics. Many ‘smart’ materials and devices feature a stimulus-responsive architecture that allows for the shrinking or swelling of designated regions under controlled conditions. These mechanical deformations are often achieved by embedding wires into the material; however, wires are physically bulky and require tethers or batteries to properly operate thus limiting the scope of their usage. Furthermore, it is difficult to incorporate wires into hydrogels and other soft devices that are very small and have complex shapes. In a rapidly growing smart materials market, there is a need for versatile methods for programming inducible shape change capabilities into hydrogels and ever-shrinking devices.  
Technology Overview
Johns Hopkins researchers have developed a novel DNA-hydrogel material that is able to expand or contract in response to environmental changes. The inventors used photolithography to build polyacrylamide machines coupled to DNA. These machines can be built in any number of different shapes and sizes. Depending on the chemical environmental stimuli, the DNA-hydrogel can specifically expand or contract in a programmable concurrent or stepwise manner. This method presents advantages in terms of autonomy, versatility, programmability, device integration, and miniaturization as compared to materials with embedded wires. As such, this technology has the potential to dramatically improve the capability of modern smart devices/actuators to sense and mechanically respond to various stimuli.
Stage of Development
A prototype material has been developed and demonstrated the material’s ability to expand and contract in response to specific signals.
Cangialosi A., et al. Science (2017) Vol. 357 (6356), 1126-1130.
Patent Information:
Title App Type Country Serial No. Patent No. File Date Issued Date Expire Date Patent Status
MOLECULAR DNA STRAND-DISPLACEMENT CONTROLLERS FOR DIRECTING MATERIAL EXPANSION PCT: Patent Cooperation Treaty United States 16/964,467   7/23/2020     Pending
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