Nanorobots Seek and Destroy Tumors

The tubes carry a blood-clotting enzyme thrombin, and are painted with proteins which home in on a separate protein found only in tumour cells

These DNA nanorobots do so by seeking out and injecting cancerous tumors with drugs that can cut off their blood supply, shriveling them up and killing them.

What happens is that the thrombin will clot the blood supply of the tumors, causing them to shrivel up and die.

"The nanorobot proved to be safe and immunologically inert for use in normal mice and, also in Bama miniature pigs, showing no detectable changes in normal blood coagulation or cell morphology", said Yuliang Zhao, a professor at the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which collaborated with ASU researchers on the study. The mini robots were able to cut-off the blood supply to breast cancer, melanoma, ovarian and lung cancer tumors in mice.

A new study has recently revealed that tiny robots might help in targeting tumors and destroying them. In this case, the DNA-based nanorobot was formed into a hollow tube carrying thrombin, researchers said.

In the Arizona State University (ASU) study, scientists injected human cancer cells into a mouse to induce aggressive tumor growth.

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"We have developed the first fully autonomous, DNA robotic system for a very precise drug design and targeted cancer therapy", said Professor Hao Yan, director of the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute's Centre for Molecular Design and Biomimetics. Origami has inspired everything from spacecraft to shields, and DNA origami - creating different shapes one thousand times smaller than a human hair using DNA strands - is an emerging field that could revolutionize drug delivery and treatment. The nanorobot therapy was particularly effective in a melanoma mouse model, in which three of eight treated mice showed complete tumor regression and more than double median survival time.

"The nanorobot proved to be safe and immunologically inert for use in normal mice and, also in Bama miniature pigs, showing no detectable changes in normal blood coagulation or cell morphology", said Yuliang Zhao, also a professor at NCNST and lead scientist of the worldwide collaborative team.

"Moreover, this technology is a strategy that can be used for many types of cancer, since all solid tumour-feeding blood vessels are essentially the same", Yan added, in a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

The research comes after a team of scientists, involving Durham University, past year created nanorobots able to drill into and destroy cancer cells. Now, some scientists there think they may be closing in on medical applications for the technology.

Regardless, this is a huge breakthrough in cancer research. But the results of this new study are promising - Yan and the research team are now hoping to pursue clinical testing.

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