New Nanorobots Search and Destroy Cancers Within 24 Hours
According to a study carried out on mice published today in the British publication NatureAn, an international team of researchers has programmed nanorobots to search for, and destroy tumors by cutting off their blood supply. The entire process occurs within 24 hours and impressive results were observed in a melanoma mouse model.
The research has been carried out by experts from the Arizona State University (USA) along with others from the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It marks a huge breakthrough in the field of nanorobots and cancer treatment.
Fully Autonomous Robotic DNA System for Cancer Treatment
The director of the Center of Molecular Design of the University of Arizona, Hao Yan, indicated that the team has developed "the first fully autonomous robotic DNA system" in cancer therapies and that this technology "is a strategy that can be used for many types of cancers".
The latest issue of Nature Biotechnology includes the first demonstration of this new technology, used with mouse models in cases of breast, ovarian, lung, and melanoma cancer.
The challenges to advance in nanomedicine have been complex, because scientists have wanted to design, build, and control nanorobots to seek and destroy cancerous tumors but without damaging healthy cells.
The Strategy: Select and Reduce The Tumor
The research group managed to overcome this obstacle by using a strategy to select and reduce the tumor. A project that commenced five years ago.
For this, they cut the blood supply of the tumor by inducing blood coagulation with a fully programmable robotic system.
"These nanorobots can be programmed to transport molecular payloads and cause on-site tumor blood supply blockages, which can lead to tissue death and shrink the tumor," said Baoquan Ding, a professor at the NCNST, located in Beijing, China.
Nanorobots Attack Human Cancer Cells
The scientists injected mice with human cancer cells to induce the growth of the aggressive tumor and when it increased in size, the nanorobots that were introduced, were very effective in reducing the tumor.
No evidence was detected that these nanorobots spread to the brain, where they could prompt unwanted side effects, such as stroke.
Everything Happens Within 24 Hours
The treatment, according to the study, blocked the blood supply of the tumor and generated tumor tissue damage within 24 hours. It didn't have any effect on the surrounding healthy tissues. What's even more interesting, is that most of the nanorobots were cleared and discarded from the body within 24 hours after attacking the tumors.
Promising Therapy for Melanoma Cancer
According to Hao Yan, "in a melanoma mouse model, the nanorobot not only affected the primary tumor but also prevented the formation of metastasis, showing promising therapeutic potential."
A similar research was carried out in 2013. Professor Frederick Hawthorne from the University of Missouri and his team developed a new type of radiation therapy known as boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) - a cancer treatment Hawthorne says researchers have been working on since the 1930's. The form of boron developed by Hawthorne releases energy, lithium and helium when a neutron is captured. Helium and lithium penetrate cancer cells, Destruction of cancer occurs from the inside out.
Reference: S. Li et al., “A DNA nanorobot functions as a cancer therapeutic in response to a molecular trigger in vivo,” Nature Biotechnology, doi:10.1038/nbt.4071, 2018.