An international group of scientists is using nanobots to destroy tumors by limiting their blood supply and eventually starving them out. In a recent study published in Nature Biotechnology, scientists from Arizona State University (ASU) and the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST), of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, demonstrated how effective these nanorobots were at confronting tumor growth. The mini robots were able to cut-off the blood supply to breast cancer, melanoma, ovarian and lung cancer tumors in mice. After just two weeks of treatment, the researchers reported that the tumor tissue was shrinking.
Hao Yan, director of the ASU Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, explained in a press release, “We have developed the first fully autonomous, DNA robotic system for a very precise drug design and targeted cancer therapy. Moreover, this technology is a strategy that can be used for many types of cancer, since all solid tumor-feeding blood vessels are essentially the same.”
These robots were inspired by origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. Each of these tumor-targeting nanorobots is made up of a flat DNA origami sheet that measures 90 by 60 nanometers. The sheet contains an enzyme that produces clots in the blood vessels that feed the tumor.
Previous attempts were not as successful at destroying tumors without harming healthy tissues and cells. So instead of going directly after tumors, the researchers opted to cut-off the tumors’ blood supply. By “starving” them, they can shrink and kill them. “These nanorobots can be programmed to transport molecular payloads and cause on-site tumor blood supply blockages, which can lead to tissue death and shrink the tumor,” said Baoquan Ding, a professor at the NCNST, in the press release. The results of this new study are promising and Yan together with his research team are hoping to pursue clinical testing.