Hijacked sperm in magnetic harnesses could be the next weapon in war on cancer

cancer magnet guided sperm
Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Dresden, Germany
As the male reproductive cell, sperm has a pretty clear-cut mission statement. But could it also be used to help deliver lifesaving cervical cancer drugs to patients? Quite possibly, claim researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Germany. They’ve been working on an unorthodox type of cancer treatment that involves hijacking sperm with magnets, and then using them as guided drug-delivery vehicles to help release cancer-killing medicines.

“We [have] developed a sperm-hybrid micromotor by using sperm for the first time as drug carrier, and a microscale structure as magnetic guidance mechanism and flexible release trigger,” Haifeng Xu, a researcher with the Leibniz Institute’s department of micro and nanostructures, told Digital Trends.

The approach involves loading up sperm cells with a common chemo agent called doxorubicin, then fitting the sperm with miniature four-armed magnetic harnesses, and controlling their movement via magnets. When the sperm hits a tumor, the magnetic harnesses open up and the sperm swims into the tumor to deliver its contents.

“Compared to existing dose forms, the main advantages of this system are the drug protection by the sperm membrane, tissue penetration by the sperm flagella, drug uptake enhancement due to the cell-fusion ability of the sperm, and the precise guidance based on the magnetic microstructure,” Xu continued.

In a Petri dish experiment, the customized sperm was shown to be capable of killing 87 percent of mini cervical cancer tumors within a period of three days. We’re not sure exactly how this technique would be extrapolated to humans, but the hope is that it could provide an alternative to the more toxic side effects of regular chemo, which can include extreme nausea.

“So far, we have confirmed the cancer cell-killing capability of drug-loaded sperms in in vitro experiments, and successfully guided a sperm-tetrapod micromotor toward in vitro tumor target to induce cell death,” Xu said. “[The] next step will be the investigation of real-time imaging of micromotors under deep tissue, and operating a micromotor cluster.”

A paper describing the work, titled “Sperm-Hybrid Micromotor for Targeted Drug Delivery,” was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.


4 women innovators who are using tech to help others live better lives

Meet four women leaders who are not only at the forefront of technology today, but also using tech — from robotics and medicine to food and undergarments — to help others.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (March 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 
Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

Imagine if the U.S. Army was able to rehearse battlezone scenarios dozens, or even hundreds, or times before settling foot on actual terrain. Thanks to virtual reality, that's now a possibility.

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.
Emerging Tech

Tombot is the hyper-realistic dog robot that puts Spot to shame

Forget Boston Dynamics’ Spot! When it comes to robot dogs, the folks behind a new Kickstarter campaign have plans to stake their claim as makers of man’s (and woman’s) newest best friend.
Emerging Tech

Researchers gave alligators headphones and ketamine, and all for a good cause

Researchers in Germany and the United States recently gave ketamine and earphones to alligators to monitor how they process sounds. Here's what it reveals about alligator evolution.
Emerging Tech

Cheese tastes different when it listens to Led Zeppelin, Swiss study finds

A funky new study says that exposing cheese to music changes its aroma and flavor. What’s more, the genre of music matters. Researchers from the Bern University of Arts played music to nine, 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese.