Science 3 min read

Researchers Develop Nano-bots to Explore the Human Cell

These new nano=bots could entirely change the way we fight cancer. ¦ Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

These new nano=bots could entirely change the way we fight cancer. ¦ Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

Imagine a swarm of nano-bots that’s small enough to explore your cells, diagnose diseases and fight cancer at the same time. Sounds exciting, right? The Engineers at the University of Toronto thought so too.

That’s why they developed a set of magnetic “tweezers” to place a nano-scale bead in human cells in three dimensions. The best part is, it does this with an unprecedented level of precision.

Professor Yu Sun and his colleagues have had two decades of experience building nano-bots that can manipulate individual cells. Thanks to its ability to manage and measure single cells, their invention has been useful in procedures such as in vitro fertilization and personalized medicine.

But, according to a publication in Science Robotics, Yu Sun and his colleagues have taken the technology to the next level.

The researcher noted;

“So far, our robot has been exploring outside a building, touching the brick wall, and trying to figure out what’s going on inside.

We wanted to deploy a robot in the building and probe all the rooms and structures,”

How The Researchers Created Nano-bots To Explore Human Cells

The team had developed similar robotic systems in the past. While it could manipulate sub-cellular structures, the systems only worked for exploring dead cells. Probing live cells, on the other hand, requires advanced techniques such as a laser or acoustics.

So, the researchers developed a system which uses six magnetic coils arranged around a microscope coverslip that’s seeded with live cancer cells.

Next, they placed a magnetic iron bead – with a diameter that’s 100 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair – on the coverslip. As expected, the cancer cells took the beads into its membrane. Once inside, co-author of the study Xian Wang could control the position of the beads using real-time feedback from confocal microscopy imaging.

With access to a computer-controlled algorithm, he could not only vary the electrical current, but he was also able to control the shape of the magnetic field too. The precise control ultimately allowed Wang to coax the bead into any position he desired.

“We can control the position to within a couple of hundred nanometers down the Brownian motion limit,”

– Xian Wang.

Future Applications

According to Sun, the research has some exciting future applications.

For example, they could introduce a whole swarm of nanobots into the human body to block the blood vessels into a tumor, therefore starving it. Another option is to destroy the tumor via mechanical ablation.

In other words, it could be an effective way to treat cancers that are resistant to immunotherapy, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy.

Read More: Ingestible Nanobots To Start Delivering Drugs Into Blood Vessels

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Comments (4)
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  1. Profile Image
    Anthony Crosier March 20 at 3:13 pm GMT

    Great, one more tool to fight cancer and tumor.

    • Profile Image
      Paul Weidner March 21 at 7:57 am GMT

      Nanobots versus 10,000 types of cancer. It’s too early to think that this thing is a solution. Could it misfire? destroying the wrong cell.

      • Profile Image
        Anthony Crosier March 22 at 4:56 am GMT

        deploying Nanobots is far better than doing nothing 🙂

        • Profile Image
          Paul Weidner March 22 at 5:15 am GMT

          There is always a risk of that. The patient is lucky to get the treatment that rarely saves him and literally might kill him before cancer can. 🙁

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