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Robo-Doc

Robo-Doc

By Matthew Flavel

Researchers have unleashed swarms of nanobots that can deliver drugs directly within tumours.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Humanity has had a complicated relationship with both bacteria and robots. While many people champion “friendly” probiotic bacteria found in yogurt or domestic vacuuming robot, others have never shaken their underlying fear that bacteria, robots or both will wipe us all out.

We now need to welcome a new player to this debate: bacterial “robots” that can be controlled by magnets to fight cancer. The bacteria Magnetococcus marinus have three qualities that make this possible: they contain magnets, they are good swimmers, and they want to swim away from oxygen.

These qualities allowed researchers from Polytechnique Montréal, Université de Montréal and McGill University to steer the bacteria through the bloodstream using a magnetic field to cancerous tumours in mice. The bacteria then followed its natural behaviour, burrowing deep into the tumour where there is less oxygen. These areas are known as hypoxic zones and are resistant to most traditional therapies.

Cancer cells are up to three times more resistant to treatments such as radiotherapy in areas where oxygen is not present. Attaching the treatment to a bacteria that’s determined to find areas that lack oxygen overcomes this barrier. The small size of the bacterium allows it to make its way through the small gaps inside the tumour and into these hard-to-reach spaces, which are about 16 times...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.