Robotic Cells Being Developed To Fight Cancer Inside the Body
In the not-so-distant future, a new kind of robot, one of the tiniest ever made, may have the ability to track down and destroy cancer cells.
Films like Fantastic Voyage (1966) and Innerspace(1987) have long conjured fictional images of microscopic submarines or machinery that can travel inside the human body to cure ailments. Now Shawn Douglas, a research fellow at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, is working on making that a reality. In a recent issue of the journal Science, Douglas described a method for creating tiny machines—roughly the size of a virus—out of strands of protein and DNA.
These devices, dubbed “DNA nanorobots,” by researcher Dr. Sangeeta Bhatiaare, are short hexagonal tubes made of interwoven DNA that can open along their length like a clamshell. At one end is a DNA “hinge,” and at the other, a pair of twisted DNA fragments that act as “latches” to hold the device shut. Inside the nanorobot, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia can enclose molecules of almost any substance, essentially turning it into a molecular “delivery truck” that can transport medication to specific cells in the body.
“Our goal is to make nano-bots that can zero in on malfunctioning cells,” says Geoff Von Malthzahn from MIT “We want to be able to target specific cells and not flood the body with harmful chemo therapy drugs which cause adverse side effects.