A Korean research team from Chonnam National University successfully developed a cancer-fighting robot, also known as “bacteriobots”, which can, once injected into the bloodstream, diagnose and treat cancer by migrating and targeting tumors in animal testing. This research breakthrough could be a stepping stone for an alternative treatment rather than using chemotherapy and other cancer procedures to kill cancer cells.
Bacteriobots are genetically modified non-toxic bacteria attached to a bead that specifically attacks tumor cells in the body. The study, published in Nature, showed the bacteriobots display minimal changes in normal cells but moved toward tumor cells at an increasing rate.
The research team also confirmed the bacteriobots’ tumor targeting capability along with their existence in tumor tissues by injecting bacteria into mice with tumors via tail veins and monitored the cells three days after the injection. Chemicals released by cancerous cells attract the bacteria.
Once the bacteriobot successfully find the cancer cells, it sprays the cancer cells with anticancer drugs.
The bacteriobots have been tested in three groups of mice. The first group of mice with solid tumors, were injected with bacteriobots coated in near-infrared fluorescence, an emission of light by a substance that absorbs light, and bioluminescence, an emission of light a living organism. The second group of mice was injected with bioluminescent bacteria that had not been attached to microbeads. The control group of mice was injected with inactive microbeads without any bacteria attached.
When the mice were extracted, the tumors from the control group showed no sign of bioluminescence or fluorescence; the bacteria-injected group showed bioluminescence, but no fluorescence. Only the bacteriobot group showed both, indicating that the microrobots were the most effective of the three at targeting cancer cells.
Co-author Jung-Oh Park from the School of Mechanical Systems Engineering at Chonnam National University said, “The importance of this research lies in the development of a new medical nanorobot and an active drug delivery carrier that can overcome the limits of conventional methods to diagnose and treat cancer.” Park added, “Our future plan is to develop medical microrobots or nanorobots capable of diagnosing and treating a lot of hard-to-treat illnesses through the convergence of medicine and engineering in our research.”