Fully Autonomous DNA Nanorobots Target and Starve Tumors in Mice


In a major advancement in nanomedicine, an worldwide team of scientists has successfully programmed nanorobots for the first time in mammals, that potentially shrinks tumours by cutting off their blood supply.

The current methods to destroy malignant cancer tumors are inadequate, as chemotherapy and radiation treatments carry the side effect of also killing a person's healthy cells. The sheet is saddled with an enzyme that makes clots in the blood vessels that feed the tumor. However, the new "nanorobots can be programmed to transport molecular payloads and cause on-site tumour blood supply blockages, which can lead to tissue death and shrink the tumour", explained Baoquan Ding, Professor at the National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST) in China.

Translation: These little biological weapons were able to deliver a dose of lifeblood-blocking, clot-inducing medicine to mice with human breast cancer tumors. This raises the hope that these kinds of nanobots could be put to use in humans much sooner than anticipated. The authors designed the fasteners to dissociate when they bind nucleolin-a protein specific to the surface of tumor blood-vessel cells-at which point, the tube opens and exposes its cargo.Nanorobot design.

DNA nanorobots are a somewhat new concept for drug delivery. In each case, the nanorobots extended the life of the mice and slowed or reversed tumor growth.

"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. Then most of the nanotubes decompose and get rid of the body within another 24 hours.

"The nanorobot proved to be safe and immunologically inert for use in normal mice and, also in Bama miniature pigs, showing no detectable changes in normal blood coagulation or cell morphology", said Yuliang Zhao, also a professor at NCNST and lead scientist of the global collaborative team.

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The DNA nanorobots have not yet been tested in humans, but they hold vast potential as a safe and effective method for killing tumors and treating cancer.

Each nanorobot is made from a flat, rectangular DNA origami sheet that is 90 nanometres by 60 nanometres in size.

S. Li et al., "A DNA nanorobot functions as a cancer therapeutic in response to a molecular trigger in vivo, " Nature Biotechnology, doi:10.1038/nbt.4071, 2018.

Life expectancy in treated mice was 45 days, compared to 20.5 days in non-treated mice.

"The thrombin delivery DNA nanorobot constitutes a major advance in the application of DNA nanotechnology for cancer therapy", said Yan.

Independent academics said the animal test results could have promising implications for humans.