How cancer-killing nanobots are swimming their way into our hearts

They’re the cutest little cancer killers


Cynthia McKelvey


Published Jun 19, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 1:12 pm CDT

Researchers have been trying to develop nanoparticles, nanotubes, and now nanorobots that will target problematic cells (like cancer cells) and shuttle medicine directly to them. Now researchers at Israel Institute of Technology have made teeny tiny little swimming robots that can more easily move through thick tissues like blood to deliver their cancer-destroying payload.

Engadget reported that these nanoswimmers are “the width of a silk fiber, made of several links of polymer and magnetic nanowires. After introducing it into a blood-like fluid, they applied an external oscillating magnetic field, propelling the nanobot the length of its body in a second.”

The ability to deliver medicine directly to certain parts of the body may someday eliminated the need for broadly applied medicines like those used in chemotherapy, which attack healthy as well as unhealthy tissues. But, as the video said, nonmobile medicine shuttles like carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles sometimes have a hard time finding their target. Endowing them with the capacity to swim can help these nanobots propel themselves to the tumor.

Photo via Wayne Large/Flickr (CC BY-2.0)

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*First Published: Jun 19, 2015, 9:43 am CDT