Scientists are trying to cure cancer by administering a nanobot into the bloodstream. Their research is published in a study, “Multifunctional surface micro-rollers for targeted cargo delivery in physiological blood flow”
The nanobots were tested under laboratory conditions by sending them through a simulated blood vessel. They are known to be 8 micrometers in diameter and they navigate through the bloodstream using magnetic fields. The outside of these nanobots is covered with a layer of nickel and gold. The purpose of these nanobots is to deliver the anti-cancer drug molecule, attached on its side, at the required location. To detect the cancer-causing pathogens, the nanobots are also equipped with some kind of biomolecules. Once they arrive at the perfect spot, the nanobots seep out of the bloodstream and deliver the anti-cancer drug to eliminate those cancerous cells.
Scientists were inspired to develop this nanobot by observing the behavior of white blood cells. White blood cells play a crucial role in the human body’s immune system. Unlike other cells in the bloodstream, white blood cells are motile, and, when required, they can move against the blood flow after consuming sufficient energy.
There are a handful of already-existing cancer-curing therapies, but their drawback is that they are not precise enough. They do deliver the drug, but not at the precise location, resulting in severe side-effects. Keeping in mind the White Blood cells phenomenon, scientists worked on creating a “vehicle” that could carry the required drug to the precise location located deep inside the tissues, to ensure its safe administration. However, navigating the nanobot across the bloodstream, using a magnetic field, is still somewhat challenging. Even though this test subject was able to travel at 600 micrometers per second, this was only possible within a simulated blood vessel.
According to scientists, these nanobots still need to go through a lot of research and development before they can be tested inside humans. This is partly because the methodology used to steer the nanobot within a blood vessel cannot be used in a living test subject. And a single nanobot will not be able to fight cancer alone, and a swarm of those nanobots will have to be injected into the bloodstream. Controlling a single nanobot is a huge challenge to the scientists, controlling thousands of them at the same time lies beyond their capabilities at the moment.
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The research to develop micro-robots to lend a hand in the medical sciences is not a new one. Several scientists have already researched and worked on these tiny helpers to perform something as huge as surgeries within a human body. This time around, scientists are increasing their scope of research and trying to bring this technology around to cure cancer.
Yunus Alapan et al. Multifunctional surface microrollers for targeted cargo delivery in physiological blood flow, Science Robotics (2020). DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aba5726