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Scientists have developed a new weapon in the war against cancer.

Arizona State University researchers successfully programmed nanorobots to shrink tumors by cutting off their blood supply.

“We have developed the first fully autonomous DNA robotic system for a very precise drug design and targeted cancer therapy,” Hao Yan, director of the ASU Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, said in a statement.

Made of a flat, rectangular DNA origami sheet, each nanobot features an average of four thrombin blood-clotting molecules, which stop blood flow in affected areas and cause a sort of “tumor mini heart attack.”

As part of their research, scientists injected the teeny robots into cancer-ridden mice; the wee tubes then traveled through the bloodstream, zeroing in on carcinomas.

As you can see in the video below, the thrombin creates a sort of dam, cutting off movement within vessels that feed tumor growth. Fast-moving and hard-working, the nanorobots quickly surround the sarcoma hours after injection.

After completing their mission, most of the machines were cleared from the body within 24 hours.

“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,” Yan said.

To avoid attacking healthy cells, nanorobots are fitted with a DNA aptamer, which specifically targets the protein nucleolin, made in high amounts only on the surface of tumor endothelial cells.

The nanorobots showed “no detectable changes” in blood coagulation or cell morphology, according to lead scientist Yuliang Zhao, a professor at the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

More importantly, there was no evidence of the devices spreading to the brain, where they could cause harmful side effects.

“In a melanoma mouse model, the nanorobot not only affected the primary tumor but also prevented the formation of metastasis, showing promising therapeutic potential,” Yan boasted.

New-kid-on-the-block nanomedicine uses nanotechnology—the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale—to diagnose and treat difficult diseases.

Arizona State University and NCNST collaborators are actively pursuing clinical partners to further develop their technology.

Read the first-of-its-kind study (using melanoma and breast, lung, and ovarian cancer mouse models), published this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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(via ASU Biodesign Institute)

An average of four thrombin molecules are attached to a flat DNA scaffold

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(via ASU Biodesign Institute)

The key to programming a nanorobot that attacks only a cancer cell was to include a special payload on its surface

3.

(via ASU Biodesign Institute)

The nanorobot is programmed, like the Trojan horse, to deliver its unsuspecting drug cargo into the very heart of the tumor

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(via ASU Biodesign Institute)

The nanotechnology creates a sort of dam that blocks the flow of blood to tumors

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(via ASU Biodesign Institute)

The blood clots, causing a sort of tumor mini heart attack and leading to tumor tissue death

 

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