Medical Nanorobots on the Arterial Highway

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  2. March 24, 2014 4:26 am

Medical Nanorobots on the Arterial Highway

Nanobots may sound like a show on the Cartoon Network, but they may save the life of someone you know, and perhaps your own. If nanobot theory can be implemented, medicine will be revolutionized. Past medical milestones, however essential, will seem like minor stepping stones over against the potential healing power of nanobots.

Tiny robots with enormous power

Nanobots or, to be more technically accurate, medical nanorobots, are robots built in nanoscale, which is smaller than most of us can conceive. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Most atoms are 0.1 to 0.5 nanometers wide, but a particle thousands of nanometers wide is still inconceivably small. In fact, rather than conjure an image of a movie robot, it’s probably best to think of nanorobots as particles we can program to perform distinct functions at the cellular level inside our bodies.

Nevertheless, the future of medicine may reside in the ability of machines of such diminutive scale a squadron of them can be dispatched to treat individual problem cells. The machines will travel through your blood vessels, but unlike drugs that now barrel down our arterial highways, nanobot deliveries will not arrive diluted. Nanorobots will be models of efficiency, administering medicines and even performing microsurgery only where it will be most beneficial.

Curing cancer one cell at a time

Although nanorobots project to have countless uses for sophisticated, highly targeted drug delivery and tissue repair, the scientific imagination is currently most captivated by the promise of nanorobots to attack cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is a shotgun approach to therapy delivery; nanorobots can hit the bull’s-eye and, importantly, nothing more. Nanorobots can be programmed to leave healthy cells unharmed, but stop the cancer cells from replicating.

The process is no longer science fiction. Recent clinical trials have successfully delivered polymer nanoparticles to halt cancer cell replication in human subjects. The scientists who performed the trials suggest that, although the current phase of study focused on curtailing cellular activity, the same technology could be deployed to rearrange the atoms in our cells and change our appearance, or deliver genes to reverse the aging process.

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