Cancer-fighting nanorobots can seek, destroy tumours

Tumour cells nanorobots Arizona State University cancer treatment DNA Origami thrombin blood flow robotic systems nanomedicine atomic-state manufacturing

"We have developed the first fully autonomous, DNA robotic system for a very precise drug design and targeted cancer therapy", said Professor Hao Yan, co-author and director of the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute's Centre for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, The Independent reported.

In a major advancement in nanomedicine, an worldwide team of scientists has successfully programmed nanorobots for the first time in mammals, that potentially shrinks tumours by cutting off their blood supply.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said: 'The development of nanorobots that can deliver drugs to a specific target within a tumour is an exciting glimpse into the future of cancer medicine.

Regardless, this is a huge breakthrough in cancer research. The researchers also demonstrated this in the healthy tissue of Bama miniature pigs, adding weight to the finding that the nanorobot is, as they describe it, "safe and immunologically inert". Within 48 hours, the bots had successfully grabbed onto vascular cells at the tumor sites, causing blood clots in the tumor's vessels and cutting off their blood supply, leading to their death. To the ends of that DNA tube, the researchers attached small bits of DNA that specifically bind to a molecule found in tumor cells, and they served as a kind of guide for the DNA nanorobots. 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.

While they're still experimental and haven't been tested in humans, these nanorobots show a lot of promise for treating cancer. This would allow the nanorobot to spring back into its original shape and so expose the blood vessels to the thrombin, causing the development of thrombosis. Median survival time more than doubled in the melanoma model, from a median of 20.5 days up to 45.

Most importantly, there was no evidence of the nanorobots spreading into the brain where they could cause unwanted side effects, such as a stroke. In this case, the DNA-based nanorobot was formed into a hollow tube carrying thrombin, researchers said.

"In a melanoma mouse model, the nanorobot not only affected the primary tumor but also prevented the formation of metastasis, showing promising therapeutic potential", Yan boasted.

Arizona State University and NCNST collaborators are actively pursuing clinical partners to further develop their technology. Now, some scientists there think they may be closing in on medical applications for the technology. "Furthermore, the current strategy may be developed as a drug-delivery platform for the treatment of other diseases by modification of the geometry of the nanostructures, the targeting groups and the loaded cargoes".

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