Scientists have successfully programmed nanorobots to shrink cancerous tumors

Robots one-thousandth the width of a human hair are now able to fight cancer by destroying tumours in the body

The sheet is saddled with an enzyme that makes clots in the blood vessels that feed the tumor.

While Professor Dorothy Bennett, director of the Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute at St George's, University of London, agreed, she noted that the target of new blood vessels might limit its use in some cases - should it be shown to work in human cancers.

The successful demonstration of the technology, the first-of-its-kind study in mammals utilizing breast cancer, melanoma, ovarian and lung cancer mouse models, was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology (DOI:10.1038/nbt.4071). Now, an worldwide group of scientists is trying a new technique to destroy tumors - using nanobots to limit tumors' blood supply, effectively starving them out.

What's Next For The Tumor-Killing Nanobots?

The pieces of DNA that guided the robot to cancer cells worked effectively, meaning the bots were successfully programmed to specifically target tumours.

To build the nanorobots, scientists specifically constructed sheets of DNA that were folded and bound together to form a tube-like structure using a technique called "DNA origami". This technology can be used in many types of cancer, as the blood vessels that supply solid tumors are virtually all the same, "said January". 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.

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"This ability can be harnessed to kill tumour cells by developing a system where the thrombin only causes clots in the blood vessels that are feeding the tumour, and not elsewhere in the body".

"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.

Using an extremely clever delivery method, the nanorobots were designed so that thrombin was only released after it was "unlocked" by a particular protein found within the blood vessels of tumours.

The scientists were also able to demonstrate the bots did not cause clotting in the healthy tissues of Bama miniature pigs, calming fears over what might happen in larger animals. This resulted in the shrinking of tumors and doubling of the median survival time of the mice, as well as causing some to go into complete remission.

'This is the first time that DNA molecules have been manipulated to deliver drugs in this way - a fascinating advance that, if refined and proven effective in humans, could have far-reaching implications for treating cancer and other diseases'. Now, some scientists there think they may be closing in on medical applications for the technology.

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