Scientists have created a robot made entirely from DNA that can be instructed to find diseased cells in the body and deliver a payload to kill or reprogram them, according to a study from Harvard University.

The researchers programmed the nano-size device to open in the presence of leukemia and lymphoma cells in a laboratory dish, where they delivered antibodies, according to a report in the journal Science.

The next step will be to test the system in animals. The technology is not ready for commercial use, said Shawn Douglas, an author of the study.

“In diseases such as cancer we know if we can find every single last cell and kill or reprogram it, we can cure that disease,’’ said Douglas, a researcher at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.


“A lot of our current therapies fall short,’’ he said.

The nano-robots may potentially lead to the development of targeted cancer treatments that kill only abnormal cells, he said.

Douglas and his fellow scientists used the robot to deliver instructions encoded in antibodies to cancer cells.

“It’s an important step forward in specific targeting,’’ said Milan Stojanovic, an assistant professor of experimental therapeutics at Columbia University in New York who was not involved in the research.