Cancer-Fighting Search and Destroy Nanobots Close to a Reality
Replicato technology may be used to treat one of the most deadly diseases known to man. Research from the University of California Davis shows that the next step in cancer research may be building nano-robots that aid in diagnosing and treating tumors.
Nano-robots are robots built on a nano scale (where a nanometer is one billionth of a meter). According to this recent study, a particle called nanoporphyrin may be able to both activate signals in tumor cells in order to make them recognizable to doctors and perform targeted delivery of drugs into the tumor cells without harming any other cells in the body. Although nanoporphyrin is organic and naturally occurring, it has the ability to self-assemble and, like a robot, it would be programmed with a tumor-recognition module.
Nanoporphyrin's properties make it uniquely suited to these tasks. As a result of its infinitesimally small size, it is able to be absorbed into cancer cells and accumulate there, enhancing the contrast of the tumor cells for diagnostic tests such as MRIs. And its structure allows it to be loaded with cancer-fighting drugs or radio-metals, as it is a micelle, or a loosely bound collection of molecules. It may also be able to be programmed to literally "cook" the tumor by emitting heat or to poison it by releasing lethal reactive oxygen species.
In the past, organic molecules have been found to be better suited to destroying tumor cells, while inorganic particles have been found to be more effective in diagnostic aid. According to the researchers, the production of nanoporphyrin is a step towards a "smart and versatile" particle that can perform both of these functions. This research could potentially lower costs for nanomedicine and make it possible to treat diseases with personalized nanobots.