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Another major goal of synthetic biology is to engineer unnatural molecules and compounds into systems and tools that mimic those found in biology. For instance, Joanna Aizenberg and her laboratory have pioneered using self-assembling synthetic nanofibers to generate capture-and-release devices that look strikingly like tiny fingers or tentacles.

Image: Scanning electron image of nanoscale bristles holding onto a sphere. These bristles are made of epoxy resin and then immersed into a liquid. As the bristles dry, they grab whatever is nearby, such as a drug or small nanoparticles. The bristles store energy and thus, can be made to release the item. Each bristle here is ~1/1000th the width of a human hair.

Credit: Cell Picture Show by Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

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