By: Sarah Shearman of Financial Times
A new prospect for cancer treatment opened up last month, when researchers for the first time successfully used tiny, nanometre-sized robots to treat cancerous tumours in mice.
Researchers from Arizona State University and the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences injected nanobots made from a folded sheet of DNA into the bloodstream of mice. These targeted the blood vessels around cancerous tumours, injecting them with bloodclotting drugs to cut off their blood supply.According to the study, publiahed in Nature Biotechnology in February, the treatment was successful in shrinking the tumours and inhibiting their spread.
The idea of armies of minuscule robots patrolling our bodies, cleaning and maintaining them has been a theme in science fiction for decades. The plot of a1966 film Fantastic Voyage in which a submarine of scientists is shrunk to microscopic size and injected into the blood stream of a colleague in order to help save his life, is now coming closer to reality.
Scientists are exploring the use of nanobots for a number of healthcare uses, not only for fighting cancer, but also to unblock blood vessels in hard to reach areas, taking biopsies or measuring the level of certain chemicals in otherwise inaccessible areas of the body.