Origami shaped nanorobots have been used by a team of scientists to locate and destroy cancerous tumours in the body, a recent study in Nature Biotechnology has found.
A group of US, Chinese and Australian researchers injected mice with the nanorobots – 300 times smaller than the head of a pin - which released blood clotting drugs into their system, and discovered that within three days the blood supply of the tumour had been starved and it began to contract and die.
This ground-breaking treatment is a significant step towards the application of nanorobotic treatment for cancer and other diseases, and has many researchers excited for the future of cancer therapy.
Fellow at the schools of Physics and Chemistry and member of the University of Sydney Nano Institute Dr. Shelley Wickham said: “The idea of DNA nano robots treating cancer has been proposed before, but this is the first animal study and it shows a successful reduction in the size of the tumour.".
“This could potentially open up a huge range of new treatment options that can’t currently be used because their side effects are too dangerous.”
By wrapping the molecule responsible for releasing the blood clot – ‘Thrombin’ - inside a protective layer of sheet shaped like origami, the researchers were able to safely attack the tumour without counteracting existing healthy cells or triggering the immune system in the blood.
Dr. Wickham - who has published a number of journals exploring the use of nanorobots in medicine - suggested that the fact that the nanorobot did not cause any negative side effects was “truly exciting and surprising”.
The new research provides a glimmer of hope for existing cancer sufferers, in particular those with melanoma and breast cancer.
The DNA origamists found that the nanorobots significantly shrank breast cancer tumours, and were most successful in destroying melanoma cancers in mice - nearly 40% of mice had their tumours totally eliminated.
Breast cancer was the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2017, while melanoma was the fourth, according to statistics published by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare.
The treatment also showed major improvements for longevity, doubling the life expectancy of the mice, where treated mice lived 45 days, and untreated mice lived only 20.5 days.
However, Dr. Wickham warns that the study was only performed on animals and “several challenges remain to be solved before this could be used in human trials.”
But the co-authors remain confident that the treatment will reshape the fight against cancer, concluding their study by saying that “DNA nanorobots represent a promising strategy for precise drug delivery in cancer therapy.”