Nano-scale robots kill cancer cells

A study from Harvard University announced they have developed a nano-scale robot, made entirely of folded DNA, that can target and kill cancer cells in the body. So far, these findings can only been observed in the laboratory, but these robots made of DNA reveal that a new caner treatment may the answer to curing cancer.

The folded DNA strands form a clamshell structure that can open and close, referred to as ‘DNA robots.’  In the presence of leukemia and lymphoma cells invitro, the researchers controlled the DNA robots to deliver antibodies to the cancer cells, which caused the cancer cells to self-destruct. Proving this concept is ground breaking for drug delivery systems and cancer treatments.

The DNA robots open and close, like a clam, in the presence of cancer cells.  The researchers have designed the DNA to unlock one end of the clam and open, when the lock comes into contact with a specific molecule, specific to the cancer cells.  When the DNA robot lock and the specific cancer cell molecule come into contact, the DNA robot unzips, releasing antibodies that stop the cancer cells’ growth.

These DNA robots take on the role of the immune system’s white blood cells, which target and destroy damaged or foreign cells.  Immune cells are designed to recognize viruses or other foreign invaders, and engulf them.  These DNA robots function using a similar mechanism.

This study has observed this outcome in the lab, so the next step involved injecting these DNA robots into animal models to see how the DNA robots function under different conditions.  In the animal models, there will be more challenges, such as maintaining sufficient levels circulating through the body, minimizing toxicity levels, and searching for accumulations.  These DNA robots are not cells, so they cannot reproduce in the body.  This technology is still years away from commercial use.

This study was published in the journal Science.

These DNA robots also have the potential to be effective in treatments for other conditions, like autoimmune diseases, which is when host immune cells attack other host cells.