Scientists Build Bacterial Nanorobots That Deliver Medicines to Cancerous Tumors

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 - 12:05PM
Robotics
Medical Tech
Tuesday, 16 August 2016 - 12:05PM
Scientists Build Bacterial Nanorobots That Deliver Medicines to Cancerous Tumors
Of all of the potential applications for nanorobots (and there are many), targeted therapies for diseases may be the most significant—and now the most achievable. Canadian scientists are reporting that they have built nanorobots made of bacteria, which can travel directly to cancerous tumors in the body and deliver medicine to previously inaccessible areas.



Cancer is one of the most difficult diseases to treat, especially since the medicines themselves are so toxic to the rest of the human body (which is why treatments like radiation and chemotherapy have such terrible side effects). As a result, targeted medicines are at the forefront of cancer research, and now nanobots created by a team of researchers from researchers from McGill University, Université de Montréal, and Polytechnique Montréal may be able to target toxic medicine to the tumor alone, without affecting any of the surrounding tissues.

The nanorobots are composed of 100 million bacteria, whose flagellations allow them to self-propel and enter deeply into the tumor. The bacteria themselves are filled with drugs, and they take a direct path from the injection site to the tumor through the bloodstream. They are even able to enter oxygen-depleted, or hypoxic, areas within the proliferating tumor, which is generally resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.

Opening quote
"Oxygen-depleted hypoxic regions in the tumour are generally resistant to therapies," the researchers wrote in their paper, published in Nature Nanotechnology. "Although nanocarriers have been used to deliver drugs, the targeting ratios have been very low. Our results suggest that harnessing swarms of microorganisms exhibiting magneto-aerotactic behaviour can significantly improve the therapeutic index of various nanocarriers in tumour hypoxic regions."
Closing quote


The robots are not autonomous, but can be controlled remotely. The bacteria, a strain of Magnetococcus marinus, are magnetotactic, meaning that they orient themselves along magnetic fields. Using magnetic fields, the researchers are able to direct the bacteria to hypoxic areas of the tumor, which are detected using an oxygen concentration measuring sensor. 

More research needs to be done on this type of therapy, since it's relatively new. But if it is successfully put into clinical practice, it could eliminate the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, while also treating cancers more effectively.
Science
Technology
Robotics
Medical Tech