Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly 600,000 deaths according to the Center for Disease Control. Everyone knows someone who has had some type of cancer. Cancer comes in many forms. Sometimes, it is mild and easily treatable. Many times, the patient is in for a fight; a fight that can be painful, drawn out and, unfortunately, fatal.
In the past decade, scientists have made great progress researching medicine and procedures that make surviving cancer more likely than ever before. Today, if the cancer is detected early enough, treatment or surgery can eliminate it entirely and give a person a chance to live a normal life. Cancer is no longer the death sentence it was thirty years or so ago.
Now, robotic technology promises to raise the bar even higher. According to an article from NBC News, scientists from China’s National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNT) and Arizona State University recently developed nanobots that fight cancer cells. These nanobots are incredibly small — smaller than red blood cells. After being injected into the bloodstream, they seek out cancer cells and kill them.
Unlike other forms of cancer treatment like chemotherapy, the nanobots will not harm other cells, thus avoiding the negative side-effects that are so often attributed to cancer therapy, like fatigue, a weakened immune system, and so on. The nanobots have a DNA molecule that bonds to the protein found in cancer tumors. This enables the nanobots to focus on the bad cells and leave the good cells alone.
Once a nanobot finds the tumor, it releases a blot clotting agent that stops blood flow to the tumor and the tumor basically starves to death. (The medical term is “intravascular thrombosis, resulting in tumor necrosis” if you want to impress your friends.)
Nanobot powered cures for cancer are not on your pharmacist’s shelves yet. Researchers are still experimenting with mice. After proving the efficacy of the treatment, researchers will determine how to commercialize it. This could take another decade or more but people in the medical community are excited about the potential of these experiments.
Nanobots have the potential to advance medicine in other areas as well. Physicians could control nanobots to deliver medicine precisely where it is needed. Nanobots will small surgical tools could be used by surgeons. Tiny cameras attached to nanobots could deliver images that allow doctors to make better decisions.