When you hear news of nanobots being used in treating cancer, you might have visions of little metal people marching around inside a person with cancer guns blazing. As a matter of fact, if this is your vision, you aren't really that far off. After all, the "nano" in nanobots means very small, while the "bots" stands for robots. In the end, you get teeny tiny robots.
The goal is that these itty bitty warriors, which are more similar to programmed particles than marching robots straight out of "Star Wars," could become everyday tools in our fight against cancer. The hope is that, as we move forward, nanobots could be deployed inside our bodies to deliver cancer medications or correct genetic mutations that lead to cancer.
A team at the California Institute of Technology completed a clinical trial showing how tiny nanoparticles could be injected into cancer patients' bloodstreams and turn off the switch in cancer cells that causes them to replicate (or make copies of themselves) [source: Tech News]. Researchers have known for some time that targeting cancer cells instead of killing healthy cells along with them was the best approach to cancer treatment. The trick has been how to get the nanoparticles that can attack the cancer to the cells in a patient's body.
Nanobots are small enough to fit inside your cells, so you're not going to be calling your friends over and showing them how your cancer-fighting nanobot also picks up after you. A nanometer is about one-billionth of a meter in size; most nanobots have between one and 100 nanometer parts [source: Western Michigan University]. Nanobots are programmable to go to the particular cancerous cells and release the cancer-fighting agent only when it reaches those cells.
In addition to cancer treatment, nanotechnology could have a major impact on the medical industry in numerous ways. Some of these are:
- Patients could drink fluids containing nanobots that attack not only cancer cells but also viruses.
- Nanobots could increase life expectancy by reversing the aging process.
- Nanobots could be programmed to perform extremely precise surgeries.
- Nanobots could perform cosmetic changes by rearranging human atoms to alter any feature desired.
How can we live longer?
Answered by Aubrey de Grey
What have been some of the major surprises in healthcare?
Answered by Andrew Weil M.D.
What makes a bladder a tough organ to build?
Answered by Anthony Atala MD