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Tumor-Attacking Bots

Researchers are exploring the use of DNA nanobots as a cancer treatment, Fortune reports.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences' Yuliang Zhao and his colleagues used DNA origami to create a robot that can deliver cargo to tumors. As they report in Nature Biotechnology this week, the DNA nanobot they devised includes an aptamer that binds nucleolin, which is found on tumor-associated endothelial cells. When they injected nanobots carrying thrombin into a mouse model of cancer, Zhao and his colleagues found that their bots could deliver thrombin to tumors to cause intravascular thrombosis and, in turn, tumor necrosis.

"DNA nanorobotic systems, such as the one we describe here with targeting and triggered release properties, may inspire the design of novel cancer therapeutics modified with different targeting ligands to mediate delivery of multiple biologically active payloads, such as short interfering RNA (siRNA), chemotherapeutics or peptide drugs," Zhao and his colleagues note.

Fortune notes, though, that "perhaps the most significant part of the tech is its precision" as the bots didn't appear to affect healthy cells.