Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cancer Fighting Robots

Science fiction has showed us that anything is possible in a novel and that anything can be created on the movie screen. What if the concepts once thought to be unrealistic were actually possible in real life? What if the microscopic nanorobots that appear in Star Trek and other sci-fi plots were a reality. Well now they are. Researchers at Harvard University have created a nanorobot constructed of DNA. That's right, these robots are made from the same material as our genes. Unlike some sci-fi concepts, however, these robots were made to help us. These microscopic beings were designed specifically to fight cancer. 

Now for those of you that don't know, cancer is a group of our own cells that our bodies have lost control of. These cells have lost the ability to keep their own growth in check and essentially replicate out of control, causing major problems for us. Usually, our immune system has no problem keeping cancer at bay. In fact, our immune system destroys cancerous cells every single day. It is when our immune system is weak, or cannot fight a particular type of cell that we end up with what is normally called cancer. 

The nanorobots created at Harvard have been designed to mimic our own immune cells. These robots are essentially mercenaries for our immune system. Each robot is created out of folded DNA and hold antibodies that when released, cause the cancerous cells to essentially commit suicide. The robots are programmed to only release the antibodies when they come in contact with the cancer. This safety measure ensures that the robots do not release the antibodies on the healthy cells in our bodies. 

What are the health hazards your may ask? The researchers state that the robots do cause toxicity in the body, but this toxicity is estimated to be far less than the toxicity seen with chemotherapy and far less invasive than radiation therapy. 

This nanorobot technology is new and exciting. While years away from wide-spread implementation, this could very well be the new era of cancer treatment. Harvard researchers are working on testing these robots in mice and once those tests show promise, they will turn their focus on human studies.    


I take nothing for granted. I now have only good days, or great days. 
-Lance Armstrong