Chinese treat brain tumors with nanobots

Medication administration

A team of Chinese boffins treated brain tumors in mice by administering drugs to the tissues using microscopic robots.

The robots jumped out of the blood streams of the mice in their brains while being covered with E. coli, which prompted the rodents’ immune systems to attack them, absorbing robots and anti-cancer drugs in the process.

The team’s research has been published in the journal Scientific robotics. It follows earlier research by members of the same team, who saw liquid-coated nanorobots propelled from a distance through gelatinous fluid in the eye.

Robots are magnetic, and researchers use a rotating magnetic field to move them from a distance. Researchers have succeeded in making paths for hybrid bio-bots as in the video game Snake.

Nicknamed “neutrobots” because they infiltrate the brain in the envelope of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell. It ultimately took Wu’s team eight years to make the swarms of microscopic robots capable of bridging the gap between rodent blood flow in the animal’s tail, where the robots were injected, and its brain, where gliomas – tumors that emerge from the brain’s glial cells – – resided.

Part of the problem is that the white blood cells in the mice were fine with the magnetic robots. Wu’s team covered the robots with pieces of E. coli, which white blood cells readily recognize as an unwanted invader.

It made the robots much more palatable and the white blood cells enveloped them. From inside those cells, the robots were then able to roll the cells to the brain, a Trojan horse for the 21st century – in this case, one that benefits the people of Troy. The neutrobots reached the brain and delivered the drug directly to the targeted tumors.

Mavis R. Bernier