The long-held nanotech dream of dispatching fleets of molecular robots into bodies to kill, one by one, any cells that are diseased has moved a step closer.
In a fantastic and dramatic development, new nano-scale robots, constructed out of DNA, are set to be used as transporters for precise and deadly cargoes to unhealthy cells, bringing at last to life the long-held nano-tech dream of dispatching fleets of molecular robots into bodies to kill, one by one, any cells that are diseased..
Technology fellow Shawn Douglas works at Harvard Medical School Wyss Institute, developing biology-inspired medical devices and materials and devices, along with genetics research fellow Ido Bachelet creating these fantastic new DNA nano-bots alongside genetics professor George M. Church of Human Genome Project fame.
They wondered if their respective expertise in immunology and building nano-structures could be combined to design a molecular robot able to mimic the immune system of the human body, recognizing infected cells and pushing the self-destruct buttons of those cell structures.
While a nano-scale cube with lid dubbed DNA Origami appeared in 2009 – a self-assembly device that would be too difficult to get delivered to the right cells, but Bachelet thought they need not re-program anything, but simply create a structure able to deliver correct antibodies to cell surfaces and ensure the cells died off.
This awesome new nano-robot is constructed in a clam shell shape from DNA, held shut with a special DNA lock designed to recognize specific types of cancer cell, which when found causes the robot to spring open exposing the payload of antibodies, performing surgical strikes in a way that’s safe for patients.
In tests these nano-bots succeeding in blowing up lymphoma and leukemia cells, while leaving good cells unharmed. One such assault entails using 100 billion of the nano-bots, and for full testing the problem will be scaling production up o the trillions that will be required.
Also these wondrous nano-bots have to be redesigned for journeying through human bloodstreams, the modifications needed to stop particles being rejected by liver or kidneys before having the chance to get working. These devices will, hopefully, ultimately become an actual therapeutic treatment for some types of cancer.
Many medical types have been doing a lot of talking about robots small enough to go through the bloodstream safely on entering the body, and going then to places where something is wrong and fixing it, these new creations proof positive that this might one day truly become a reality.