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Programmable Nanomaterials

A robotic device made from DNA that could potentially seek out specific cell targets within a complex mixture of cell types and deliver important molecular instructions, such as telling cancer cells to self-destruct. Learn more...

Researchers at the Wyss Institute find inspiration in the design and functionality of the human body, which is replete with evidence of Nature's extraordinary sophistication and finesse. They harness that inspiration to design an arsenal of "smart" nanotechnologies with practical applications in medicine and the environment.

Spanning disciplines from materials science, to optics, synthetic biology, genetic engineering, polymer chemistry and more, this team is achieving a bioinspired reality far beyond most human-made materials, which are often designed for just a single or small range of functions and cannot respond dynamically to changes in their environment. The materials they design are much more like our tissues and organs, which form through a process of self-assembly: nanoscale molecules come together with cells to form specialized structures and scaffolds that guide their development. Our tissues and organs are also dynamic and multifunctional – able to adjust their structure and function in response to physical cues from their environment, and providing mechanical support and executing a host of circulatory and regulatory tasks that maintain homeostasis.

The goal is to capture the best of Nature's resilient engineering strategies, and to remotely control these new materials using light, magnetic forces, ultrasound, or electric fields. Current applications include aerosols that deliver drugs to the lungs, vaccines that regulate immune cells, and injectable nanoparticles made from DNA that "know" to travel to an injury site and trigger tissue regeneration by harnessing the body's own power to heal. They also include new generations of nanofabrics that could be used as scaffolds to promote wound healing, and advanced materials made from novel inks using an elite technique for three-dimensional printing that may revolutionize energy harvesting and storage.


Lead Projects and Technologies


NanoRx Targeted Delivery of Vascular Therapeutics
A nanotherapeutic designed to target drug delivery directly to vascular occlusion sites
Hydrogels Injectable Hydrogels for Precise Drug Delivery
DNA Nanotechnology Programmable DNA Nanostructures
Nano-scale structures built from short strands of DNA
Cancer vaccines Implantable Cancer Vaccines
An implantable disk that initiates an immune system response against cancer
DNA Nanotechnology Tough Gel
Strong, stretchy hydrogels could deliver drugs, heal wounds and replace springy tissues
Chitosan Bioplastic, next iteration of Shrilk Chitosan Bioplastic
A fully degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells



David Mooney
Joanna Aizenberg
David Edwards
Donald Ingber
L. Mahadevan
Kit Parker
William Shih
George Whitesides
Peng Yin


Interactive feature

Molecular Origami
See what shapes you can make by folding a virtual strand of RNA or DNA.



Nature Materials

Infection-mimicking materials to program dendritic cells in situ

Technology Review 

Implant Makes Cells Kill Cancer



Nature Nanotechnology

Nanomagnetic actuation of receptor-mediated signal transduction



We've won a Webby Award!

Wyss Institute is proud to announce our win in the 2012
Webby Awards in the Science category.