Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Robots in your DNA

I'm a fan of nanotechnology, its a fascinating field with long reaching applications. I found this article mentioning that researchers at the Wyss Institute for Bio bioengineering have developed something quite interesting. Its a robot, a really small one. This nanorobot is made from DNA, and is modeled after the body's own immune system. Its function is to seek out specific cell targets within a mixture of different cell types. It then goes about delivering important instructions to the cells, like telling a cancer cell to self destruct for example.
Since the nanorobot is inspired by the body's immune system it will not be targeted for destruction by white blood cells. Also with this "instruction" ability of it's it can be huge for treating disease. The nanorobots can be considered extensions of the body's own natural immune system. The technology has already been tested on leukemia and lymphoma cells with each being successful in activating the cells "suicide switch". This technology might get rid of the practice of radiation treatment and chemo for cancer patients. Very cool.

posted by Dorian Pillari (3)


  1. This article is very interesting. Do you think these robots will one day be able to exist our bodies for the long run preventing us from getting diseases?

    Posted by Khoa Chu

    1. Yeah Khoa in the long run I think the technology and technique will be developed enough to increase their longevity. Maybe instead of going to get vaccines for new viruses, all you would need is a shot of these nano-robots. Each batch designed to target a particular ailment. Preventing diseases all together will be pretty tricky. But maybe these nanobots are a possible solution. Time will tell.

      posted by Dorian Pillari

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I wonder how these nanorobots are produced. Are they genetically engineered and grown on a culture or are they modified from existing cells? In either case, I think they could also provide large bounds in the research of cell activity because of the control we seem to have with them.

    Posted by James Fargnoli

  4. This is fascinating! The fact that we can actually manufacture structures using a model of our own DNA, and it can then successfully act in the body as if it was created by our bodies themselves is amazing. How did we develop the technology to do this? What kind of advanced techniques must be required to create such a tiny "robot"? This is just one example of the amazing medical advances that have been made in just the last couple decades. Imagine what is in store in future? But while the potential cancer-curing properties of this technology are a great advance that will hopefully eradicate cancer for good, I also wonder what horrible things could result. Movies about bioengineered viruses and pathogens comes to mind. In the wrong hands, what kind of horrible, detrimental effects could result?

    Posted by Laura Moro

  5. I hadn't really thought about it but I now have the same questions as Laura Moro. What will happen when these robots malfunction? What are the side effects? These questions will probably be answered in subsequent articles from that magazine, though my guess is that it will take many years. However, modern medical technology is far beyond where I thought it was. In the future, it's going to be interesting to look back this article when these robots are commonplace.

    Posted By Erica Bonnell

  6. this is very interesting topic and it keeps me optimistic about what the future holds for us. If this really works, then we will finally find a cure for cancer and many other deadly diseases. Imagine all the suffering people wouldn't have to go through anymore!
    But, like Laura and Erica have pointed out, what happens if these things don't work properly, or people decide to use it for harm, such as for warfare?

    -Hermann Kam

  7. Although I don't know much about the nanotechnological field, I find this completely fascinating. As it was said above me, I feel that this could go horribly wrong as well as fantastically good. What happens if the robot starts telling the good cells to self destruct? I don't know how this robot works, so I don't know if it is possible for it to make mistakes like that but then again I assume anything is possible. Either way, in 50 years or so from now...this could be potentially what is curing cancer or other diseases. I think its awesome and I hope they continue researching it.

    Posted by Taylor Pirog

  8. This is fantastic that someone came up with this idea and technology. Cancer is an extremely important problem in the world today and a cure has yet to be found. If this nanotechnology can eliminate chemo and radiation then it would definitely be a huge boost for cancer patients and people at risk of getting cancer in the future. Chemo is a very long arduous and painful procedure so I really would love to see nanotechnology being used to cure cancer and other deadly diseases in the near future.

    Posted by Nicco Ciccolini

  9. Its like a tactical Magic School Bus. How great! I think it is interesting that our initial instinct is to be so suspicious of the potential harm this technology could do. I guess it makes sense though - with the E=MC2 and all... But I guess I have a bit more faith. I think that the tendency for humanity to 'be good' - if you will - is greater then the humanities tendency to 'be bad'. For instance - maybe there will be some instances of misuse, or even outright abuse of this technology, but in the scope of all the potential good it seems like a trivial matter... I am not arguing that care should be taken when new treatments and technologies are introduced - I simply think that we are a bit too suspicious for our own good. Frankly, I may get cancer some day and I would love for such a treatment to be available. So, stop naysaying and let the researchers get to work!

    Posted by William Mohn

  10. Nanotechnology is developing rapidly and is having such a positive impact on the medical field. I always found science to be so interesting in that multiple fields of study can interconnect to have positive influences. I believe nanotechnology, and sharing information can lead to many positive results in the medical field, which is a victory for humanity. It's promising that experiments have been done already using nanotech to stop cancer cells.

    Posted by Andy Zou