DNA nanorobots, which are programmed to kill tumors by cutting off their blood supply, are the latest weapon against the scourge of cancer.
The technology might sound like something out of science fiction, but researchers have already proven that it works on mice. Hopefully, the nanorobots will do the same for humans.
DNA Nanorobots To Join Fight Against Cancer
The current methods to destroy malignant cancer tumors are inadequate, as chemotherapy and radiation treatments carry the side effect of also killing a person's healthy cells. Researchers are working to create ways to target and kill only the tumor cells, and a new study shows that DNA nanorobots may be a viable solution.
In a study published in the Nature journal, researchers said that they used DNA origami to construct the nanorobots, which were tasked with transporting payloads that will be released specifically to tumors. That payload is thrombin, an enzyme that clots blood, and the DNA nanorobots hold the thrombin inside while they travel within an organism. The researchers attached parts of DNA found in tumor cells to the nanorobots, and once they come into contact with tumor cells, they attach and release their payload.
What happens is that the thrombin will clot the blood supply of the tumors, causing them to shrivel up and die.
To test the method, researchers injected the delivery bots into mice that carried human breast cancer tumors. Over just 48 hours, the DNA nanorobots had already attached to the tumors, releasing the thrombin to cause the blood clots and pushing the tumors to their deaths.
The experiment showed that the nanorobots did not cause clotting anywhere else in the bodies of the mice. The same tests arrived at the same results when tried on Bama miniature pigs, which meant that the method still worked for bigger animals.
What's Next For The Tumor-Killing Nanobots?
"We have developed the first fully autonomous, DNA robotic system for a very precise drug design and targeted cancer therapy," Professor Hao Yan said. Yan, the director of the Centre for Molecular Design and Biomimetics in the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute, added that the technology may be used for many forms of cancer, as the different tumors come with similar blood vessels.
The DNA nanorobots have not yet been tested in humans, but they hold immense potential as a safe and effective method for killing tumors and treating cancer. The next goal, of course, is to prove that the safety and efficiency of the nanobots when used on humans.