Research into the mechanics and fluctuations of living cells has revealed the key role played by the cytoskeleton, a gel of stiff filaments driven out of equilibrium by force-generating motor proteins. Inspired by the extraordinary mechanical functions that the cytoskeleton imparts to the cell, we sought to create an artificial gel with similar characteristics. We identified DNA, and DNA-based motor proteins, as functional counterparts to the constituents of the cytoskeleton. We used DNA selfassembly to create a gel, and characterized its fluctuations and mechanics both before and after activation by the motor. We found that certain aspects of the DNA gel quantitatively match those of cytoskeletal networks, indicating the universal features of motor-driven, non-equilibrium networks.

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