News: Nanotechnology in Oncology

The advent of nanorobotics in oncology have already shown positive results in various cancer mouse models, raising the potential of the technology to aid patients with serious illnesses and autoimmune disease. Nanorobots are “‘devices’ designed to operate in the nanometer scale.” One version of the concept originates as a 90 nm x 60 nm x 2nm sheet of DNA. The sheet is folded in the shape of a 90 nm long cylindrical tube with a diameter of 19 nm. It is then calibrated to reach a targeted group of blood vessels, carrying with it thrombin, a blood clotting enzyme meant to block tumor blood vessels, and an aptamer that helps the nanorobot identify cancerous cells. When the targeted blood vessels are reached, the nanorobot unloads the thrombin, beginning the clotting process, and results in blocked blood vessels, which cut off the tumor from oxygen and nutrients.

Researchers in Canada, the UK and the US have worked on projects utilizing nanorobots, with promising results. A partnership project on small fish models between the UK and the US at Durham University resulted in extremely positive results, with the nanorobots literally killing cancer cells. The scientists plan to move their research onto rodent models before human clinical trials. The less invasive nature of nanorobotics is likely to be appealing to patients, especially with the relatively quick results that the technology offers.