Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Economy | By

New DNA nanorobots successfully target and kill off cancerous tumors

New DNA nanorobots successfully target and kill off cancerous tumors

Arizona State University scientists, in collaboration with researchers from the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have successfully programmed nanorobots to shrink tumors by cutting off their blood supply. Staining studies also highlighted thickening of alveolar wall and fibrosis, "suggesting a consequential remodeling of the tumor tissues into normal lung tissues", the authors claim. The sheets of DNA used, which are 90 nanometres by 60 nanometres, deliver an enzyme direct to the blood vessels at the heart of the tumour. The tube structure is held together by fastener strands that include DNA aptamer molecules created to nucleolin, a protein specifically expressed on tumor-associated endothelial cells. Over just 48 hours, the DNA nanorobots had already attached to the tumors, releasing the thrombin to cause the blood clots and pushing the tumors to their deaths. This raises the hope that these kinds of nanobots could be put to use in humans much sooner than anticipated. Now, an global group of scientists is trying a new technique to destroy tumors - using nanobots to limit tumors' blood supply, effectively starving them out.

DNA nanorobots are the latest weapon against the scourge of cancer, as researchers were able to program them to kill human breast cancer tumors in mice.

The blood supply that tumours rely on for oxygen and energy can be choked off by fleets of "nanorobots" made out of DNA, early experiments show. Median survival time more than doubled in the melanoma model, from a median of 20.5 days up to 45. Hao Yan's longstanding expertise in DNA origami expertise has allowed the nanomedicine concept to be upgraded to a fully programmable robotic system.


Most impressively, the study showed that the DNA nanorobots did not cause blood clots in non-cancerous cells. The researchers attached parts of DNA found in tumor cells to the nanorobots, and once they come into contact with tumor cells, they attach and release their payload. Yuliang Zhao. Importantly, there was no evidence that the nanorobots spread into the brain.

"The nanorobots are decidedly safe in the normal tissues of mice and large animals", says Guangjun Nie, another professor at the NCNST and a key member of the collaborative team. Now, some scientists there think they may be closing in on medical applications for the technology.

The DNA nanorobots have not yet been tested in humans, but they hold vast potential as a safe and effective method for killing tumors and treating cancer. "Furthermore, the current strategy may be developed as a drug delivery platform for the treatment of other diseases by modification of the geometry of the nanostructures, the targeting groups, and the loaded cargoes".

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