Skip to main content

Like little homing missiles, nanorobots target tumors for direct drug delivery

nanorobotic agents cancer polynanorobot
The Nanorobotics Laboratory, Polytechnique Montréal
Like little homing missiles, teams of nanorobots can now swim through bloodstreams, target cancerous tissue, and deliver a drug deep into the tumor without harming surrounding healthy tissues, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology by a team of researchers from Polytechnique Montréal, Université de Montréal and McGill University.

Once inside the tumor, the nanorobots’ job isn’t done. A sensor that measures oxygen concentration allows the bots to autonomously detect low-oxygen zones — which are active cancer areas, generally resistant to therapies — for direct drug delivery.

Although the researchers refer to the vessels as robotic agents, they’re actually organic, made up of small bacteria.

Dr. Sylvain Martel, Director of the Polytechnique Montréal Nanorobotics Laboratory’s, had the idea to propel drug-carrying nanobots with bacteria’s whip-like flagella and he decided it would be easier to use actual bacteria than to develop artificial ones. Realizing that he would need a way to “communicate” with these bacteria, he searched for an alternative.

“This is when I came across magnetotactic bacteria that could be directed by a magnetic field,” Martel told Digital Trends. “Since passing a current in an electrical wire generate an electromagnetic field, this provide the communication and navigation link between the computer and the bacteria acting as nanorobots.”

The resulting “legions” of nanorobots are composed of more than 100 million flagellated bacteria that navigate smoothly through bloodstreams and into tumors, according to the scientist.

In addition to the oxygen concentration sensor that leads them to the active cancer regions, the bots are equipped with magnetic nanoparticles inside the bacteria’s cells that can be controlled with an external magnetic field.

Martel thinks the transportation techniques developed for these bots will help physicians rethink medical intervention methods and reconsider the vessels used to deliver therapies and diagnostics. “Chemotherapy, which is so toxic for the entire human body, could make use of these natural nanorobots to move drugs directly to the targeted area, eliminating the harmful side effects while also boosting its therapeutic effectiveness,” he said in a press release.

Dyllan Furness
Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer from Florida. He covers strange science and emerging tech for Digital Trends, focusing…
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer
woman-in-bed-wearing-twilight-apollo-on-ankle

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more