Science fiction no more — in an article out today in Nature Biotechnology, scientists were able to show tiny autonomous bots have the potential to function as intelligent delivery vehicles to cure cancer in mice. These DNA nanorobots do so by seeking out and injecting cancerous tumors with drugs that can cut off their blood supply, shriveling them up and killing them. Using tumor-bearing mouse models, we demonstrate that intravenously injected DNA nanorobots deliver thrombin specifically to tumor-associated blood vessels and induce intravascular thrombosis, resulting in tumor necrosis and inhibition of tumor growth, the paper explains. DNA nanorobots are a somewhat new concept for drug delivery. They work by getting programmed DNA to fold into itself like origami and then deploying it like a tiny machine, ready for action. DNA nanorobots, Nature Biotechnology 2018The scientists behind this study tested the delivery bots by injecting them into mice with human breast cancer tumors. Within 48 hours, the bots had successfully grabbed onto vascular cells at the tumor sites, causing blood clots in the tumors vessels and cutting off their blood supply, leading to their death. Remarkably, the bots did not cause clotting in other parts of the body, just the cancerous cells theyd been programmed to target, according to the paper. The scientists were also able to demonstrate the bots did not cause clotting in the healthy tissues of Bama miniature pigs, calming fears over what might happen in larger animals. The goal, say the scientists behind the paper, is to eventually prove these bots can do the same thing in humans. Of course, more work will need to be done before human trials begin. Regardless, this is a huge breakthrough in cancer research. The current methods of either using chemotherapy to destroy every cell just to get at the cancer cell are barbaric in comparison. Using targeted drugs is also not as exact as simply cutting off blood supply and killing the cancer on the spot. Should this new technique gain approval for use on humans in the near future it could have impressive affects on those afflicted with the disease.
The bots cut off the tumors blood supply. Our current methods of fighting malignant tumors are wildly inadequate. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments, while sometimes successful, come with massive side effects, mainly because every other cell in the body is also getting bombarded with chemicals and radiation even though the main targets are the tumor cells. Finding a way to specifically target tumor cells while leaving healthy cells alone is something that many researchers are working towards and a new study out today demonstrates that nanorobots made out of DNA could be an effective option. The research team took DNA from a virus and turned it into a sort of DNA sheet. That sheet was then loaded with an enzyme called thrombin -- a chemical that can clot blood -- and the sheet was then rolled into a tube, with the thrombin kept protected inside. To the ends of that DNA tube, the researchers attached small bits of DNA that specifically bind to a molecule found in tumor cells, and they served as a kind of guide for the DNA nanorobots. The idea is that once the nanorobots are introduced into an organism, they'll travel around and when those guiding bits of DNA come into contact with those tumor-associated molecules, they'll attach. Then, the DNA tube will open up, exposing the thrombin within. That thrombin will then clot the blood supply to the tumor, effectively cutting off its nutrients and ultimately killing it. To test their nanorobots, the researchers injected them into mice infected with human breast cancer cells and human ovarian cancer cells as well as mouse models of human melanoma and lung cancer. In each case, the nanorobots extended the life of the mice and slowed or reversed tumor growth. Further, in the case of the melanoma model, the nanorobots appeared to be able to prevent the spread of melanoma to the liver and with the lung cancer model, the lungs even showed an ability to begin repairing themselves once the tumor growth had slowed. Of course, the ability to treat tumors would be moot if the nanorobots themselves posed a risk to people. But the team showed that the bots didn't clot blood outside of the tumors and they didn't trigger any significant immune responses in either mice or pigs. While they're still experimental and haven't been tested in humans, these nanorobots show a lot of promise for treating cancer. "Our research shows that DNA-based nanocarriers have been shown to be an effective and safe cancer therapy," Guangjun Nie, one of the researchers on the project, said in a statement. "We are currently working with a biotech firm to translate this revolutionary technology into a viable anti-tumor therapeutic. " The research was published today in Nature Biotechnology.