A team of scientists have developed nanorobots that are programmed to seek and shrink tumors by blocking the tumors’ blood supply. They have tested these microscopic robots on mice, and the results are promising.
The study published in the journal, Nature Biotechnology, could soon transform the cancer treatment in humans. The scientists from Arizona State University (ASU) and the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences led the discovery and research.
Hao Yan, the director of the ASU Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics and the Milton Glick Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, said that they have developed the first fully autonomous, DNA robotic system for exact drug design and targeted cancer therapy. He further noted that this technology is a strategy that could be used for many types of cancer, as all substantial tumor-feeding blood vessels are necessarily the same, as pointed out by Phys.org.
In the research, the scientists used nanorobots that are built from DNA to make sheets that they could fold into whatever shapes or sizes to make them functional. Each tiny robot, made from a rectangular DNA origami sheet, is about 90 nanometers by 60 nanometers in size.
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Cancer-fighting nanorobots programmed to seek and destroy tumors
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Then, they shaped the nanorobots into cancer-seekers and attached thrombin, which is a blood-clotting enzyme, into their molecular guiding system. The thrombin could cut the tumor blood supply by clotting the blood within the vessels that feed the tumors’ growth. This process triggers infarction and leads to the death of the tumor tissue, according to Daily Mail.
The scientists tested their creation on the mouse model, in which human cancer cells were injected into a mouse to enhance tumor growth. When the tumor was growing, the nanorobots started to do their work.
The robots were injected through an IV into a mouse and the nanorobots aimed and targeted the tumors as they traveled through the bloodstream. They worked rapidly and surrounded the tumor just hours after injection.
They cut the tumors’ blood supply and damaged the tumor tissue within 24 hours without any side effects. Then, the nanorobots degenerated and cleared from the body after 24 hours.
The scientists said that the nanorobots are safe and trigger no unwanted side effects, such as stroke. They also think that they are closer to real and practical medical applications of the technology, which could lead to a destruction of solid tumors and vascularized metastases in the future.