Nanomedicine Revolution – 2015 Human Trial of DNA Nanobots

Dr. Ido Bachelet of Bar-Ilan University announced that the first clinical trials may soon begin on the nanorobots he has developed to fight cancer. The nanorobots, which can be injected into patients, can identify and kill cancer cells without affecting healthy cells.

Medical nanorobots are programmable cell-sized machines that can be introduced in a living organism, where they interact with each other and with the cells of the host to perform monitoring and repair functions.

So far, the robots can recognize a dozen types of cancer, including leukemias and solid tumors. Early tests on animals were promising, and Dr. Bachelet is optimistic that clinical trials can soon.

This Could Revolutionize Everything We Know About Medicine

DNA Nanobots
DNA nanorobots can target cancer cells and deliver an antibody payload (purple). Image created by Campbell Strong, Shawn Douglas, & Gaël McGill using Molecular Maya & cadnano.

In a short video clip recorded at an event organized by the British Friends of Bar-Ilan University, Dr. Bachelet confirms that a human patient with late stage leukemia will be given DNA nanobot treatment. Without the DNA nanobot treatment, the patient would be expected to die in the summer of 2015. Based upon animal trials they expect to remove the cancer within one month.

“These robots are going to scan every cell in his body, and cells that we would recognize as leukemia cells they will destroy specifically without even touching the other cell types and judging from what we saw in animals that person is going to recover. It’s not science fiction, it’s already happening, we published two papers, one in Science and one in Nature Nanotechnology. This could revolutionize everything we know about drugs, about medicine.”

Besides cancer treatment, Dr. Bachelet hopes that within 1 or 2 years his team will have spinal cord repair working in animals and then shortly thereafter in humans.

The two papers referenced by Dr. Bachelet are:

The second paper reports that nano-sized entities made of DNA that can perform the same kind of logic operations as a silicon-based computer have been introduced into a living animal (a cockroach). The DNA computers – known as origami robots because they work by folding and unfolding strands of DNA – travel around the insect’s body and interact with each other, as well as the insect’s cells, and can dispense drugs. DNA nanorobots could potentially carry out complex programs that could one day be used to diagnose or treat diseases with unprecedented sophistication.

Of course the nanomedicine revolution won’t happen overnight, but it’s possible to envisage a not-too-far future of medicine based on nanobots that routinely circulate in our bloodstream, monitor the health of tissues and cells, and perform needed repair functions based on their programming.

In a recent video interview with Big Think Nicholas Negroponte, one of the founding fathers of the Internet and today’s cyber-culture, describes future nanobots hacking our neurons to make us learn faster and better.

Also read: Nicholas Negroponte on the Future of Learning: Nanobots Will Hack the Brain

Ido Bachelet, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor in Medicine and Life Science at the Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, Bar-Ilan University, Israel. His main research areas are molecular programming, nanomechanics of biological components, and nanomechanical engineering.

Images from Nature and Shutterstock.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.