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

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)

Cynthia McKelvey

Cynthia McKelvey

Cynthia McKelvey covered the health and science for the Daily Dot until 2017. She earned a graduate degree in science communication from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2014. Her work has appeared in Gizmodo, Scientific American Mind, and Mic.com.