Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Biotech Medicine Open Source Robotics Science

DNA Nanorobot Halts Growth of Cancer Cells 74

ananyo writes "DNA origami, a technique for making structures from DNA, has been used to build devices that can seek out and potentially destroy cancer cells. The nanorobots use a similar system to cells in the immune system to engage with receptors on the outside of cells. The barrel-shaped devices, each about 35 nanometers in diameter, contain 12 sites on the inside for attaching payload molecules and two positions on the outside for attaching aptamers, short nucleotide strands with special sequences for recognizing molecules on the target cell (abstract). The aptamers act as clasps: once both have found their target, they spring open the device to release the payload. The researchers tested six combinations of aptamer locks, each of which were designed to target different types of cancer cells in culture. Those designed to hit a leukemia cell could pick that cell out of a mixture of cell types, then release their payload — in this case, an antibody — to stop the cells from growing. The researchers designed the structure of the nanorobots using open-source software, called Cadnano."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

DNA Nanorobot Halts Growth of Cancer Cells

Comments Filter:
  • by nadszyszkownik ( 2543098 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:36AM (#39073911)
    Bill Gates said open source *is* cancer.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @11:26AM (#39074611)
      Steve Jobs said open source *causes* cancer.

      Too soon?
      • Steve Jobs said open source *causes* cancer.

        That's the point, isn't it? This is a microscopic amount of Open Source being injected into the patient, clearly a homeopathic treatment.

    • Fact check, not that it matters: It was Ballmer who likened Linux in particular to a cancer.

      • Because the growth of Linux is very fast? I don't see any way that this could be construed as an insult toward Linux. Nothing better then a competitor giving free advertising :)
        • by gorzek ( 647352 )

          Nah, it was in reference to the way the GPL "spreads" through code. What Microsoft likes are licenses such as BSD, where you can take an open codebase, change it, package it, and sell it--all without ever having to share your modified source with anyone. Microsoft didn't like the GPL because it meant to use GPL'd code they would have to share any changes they made to it, and when's the last time you saw Microsoft giving useful code away?

          MS doesn't seem to much mind giving away binaries, but source code is s

      • Good catch. So, this treatment is more like throwing tiny chairs at cancer cells.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:36AM (#39073917)

    Origami has shown up twice on slashdot recently and could be a good buzzword candidate.

  • Sounds like it plays asteroids with cancer cells. I hope there are no UFOs to mess things up and it doesn't attack anything else.

  • Killer apps? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:38AM (#39073939) Journal
    You have to wonder about the other applications of this technology - targeting specific genetic groups with a vaccine or even a weapon for example.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:44AM (#39074013)

      You have to wonder about the other applications of this technology - targeting specific genetic groups with a vaccine or even a weapon for example.

      this is why we can't have nice things.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ethnic cleansing tools.

    • You have to wonder about the other applications of this technology - targeting specific genetic groups with a vaccine or even a weapon for example.

      Deus Ex, anyone?

    • "Written in blood" by Chris Lawson, in Asimov's (1999), "Centaurus: Best Australian Science Fiction", and volume 5 of the excellent "Year's Beat SF" edited by David G Hartwell.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:40AM (#39073963) Homepage Journal

    Wow. I am continually impressed with the advance in various technologies, especially medical tech. In 1966 McCoy's displays in sick bay were far-out future fantasy, today they look primitive.

    When we have nano-robots that can build more nano-robots, I think the time will come when a 3D printer will seem not only quaint, but as primitive as McCoy's sick bay.

    Are these devices really "robots," though?

    • The rate feels slower today than when I was a kid.
      And why did the previous generations always get the cool people. What happened to all the von Neumanns, Turings, and Freeman Dysons?

      • They're at work right now. You'll hear about their accomplishments when some historian writes a popular novel detailing the incredible inventor of X, savior of mankind. The titles a work in progress of course.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjames ( 1099 )

        They didn't have the right bullet points for HR and didn't fit well enough in the corporate mold, so they're digging ditches and hauling your garbage away.

      • Turing, specifically, was killed by his own government for a crime that most people wouldn't even consider a matter for concern now, just a half dozen decades later. We see him as a "cool people": then he was was an unusually bright man who did some interesting research; but was tragically social maladjusted. This is true to a greater or lesser extent of all the "cool people" from the past. Einstein was a minor celebrity, but then so are Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawkings. Most of the "cool people" of our

        • He could be a flash in the pan like the BSB, develop into a musician with real staying power like the Beatles... He could even change the music world one day. 50 years from now people could talk about him like they do Bach, or never know who he was.

          Oh God I fucking hope not!

          • I don't know. He seems like a nice kid. I don't like his music, but that doesn't mean I can never like any of his future music. I'm no huge fan of Lady Gaga, but after being essentially forced to watch her Thanksgiving special I have to admit the woman can, in fact, sing. Seeing her do Jazz standards in fairly normal clothing made me realize that there's a lot more to her than loud noises and obnoxious stunts. If she could be convinced to do more stuff like that, I could be convinced to buy some of her m

    • by babymac ( 312364 )
      You really need to read Drexler's Engines of Creation [] or Feynman's speech There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom [].
  • Regression Testing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cthlptlk ( 210435 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:44AM (#39074025)

    I am not a biologist or a roboticist, but as a programmer I suspect regression testing on altered proteins is going to be a bitch.

    • It is. Big Pharma is pretty unwilling to use non-antibody scaffolds for protein-based drugs. There are a fair number of antibody drugs on the market these days: [] . There's not much in the pipeline for non-antibodies, because nobody knows how the immune system will react to introduced proteins. Antibodies are given a pass because they're part of the immune system; even then industry is careful not to modify the antibodies more than is strictly neces
  • Science has shown that the cure for cancer WILL cause a zombie apocalypse, place your bets as to when it will start, where ground zero will be and how long it will take for the annihilation of the human race.

  • Why this cannot be tested in humans right now?

    • Re:Test in humans (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:57AM (#39074195)

      If you read the linked article, it says that human defense mechanisms quickly destroy and remove the DNA nanobots (liver filters them out and nucleases, enzymes chew up stray bits of DNA, breaks them up).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @11:32AM (#39074695)

        That's easy. Just remove all the cancer cells from the patient, put them in a petri dish, and unleash the nanobots on them there. When finished, put the dead cancer cells back into the patient.

        Easy peasy, no?

      • Sounds like a good thing to me...apply the nanobot hunter-killers directly to the tumor, they do their job, then the host's own housekeeping systems clean up the nanobots.

        Either that or develop nanobot hunter-killer hunter-killers (let's call them "snakebots") and when those start to overrun the place, apply nanobot hunter-killer hunter-killer hunter-killers ("gorillabots" perhaps?) and when wintertime rolls around they simply freeze to death
  • A few queries (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Taibhsear ( 1286214 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:58AM (#39074215)

    A few things I didn't see in the article that may be of concern. The immune system itself tends to see loose (extracellular) DNA as foreign and attacks it. Have they tested this to see how the natural immune system responds to this delivery system? Does the DNA structure they used possibly have segments that could be used in transcription, should the nanobot become damaged and broken off loose DNA somehow makes it way into a cell? I only have a bachelor's in biochemistry so I'm sure these guys have considered such things but I'm curious to know.

    • One possibility would be to use this for liver tumore via chemoembolization techniques. Presently a wire tipped with chemo is snaked to the tumor via groin artery. The chemo is inserted into tumor in highly concentrated form, then the blood vessels to tumor are sealed off. Substitute nanorobots in this isolated environment might be a start.
    • by ananyo ( 2519492 )
      Hi - I think actually that the linked Nature news article answers your question. In short, yes it is a problem with the technology as it stands but... "What’s more, the nanorobots are quickly cleared by the liver or destroyed by nucleases, enzymes chew up stray bits of DNA. It might be possible to coat them with a substance such as polyethylene glycol, widely used to boost the length of time a drug can remain in the body, says Douglas, or “maybe to borrow inspiration from other biomolecules or
  • Obligatory XKCD: []
  • I guess the editors didn't like my flights of fancy.

    wisebabo writes
    "The Singularity I've thought will be achieved when we get two things 1) true atomic level control over matter as demonstrated by human designed robots that can replicate themselves from the lego blocks of nature, atoms, and 2) when we have supra-human intelligence that can take over the difficult process of thinking. (Of course having #2 will make it a lot easier to achieve #1 but that's another topic).

    Well it looks like we're getting close

  • by Johann Lau ( 1040920 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @12:58PM (#39075895) Homepage Journal

    earlier today []:

    This kind of bullshit technology is always featured here on fanboi central, but never turns into anything real.

    Why don't we focus on what's really important and stop fucking around with these stupid stories?


  • How I love my old issues of Analog Magazine, they somehow have predicted the future more than once.
    this was covered back in the day and I have been wondering when it was going to come about.

    If the pattern keeps up, in 12 years we will see the trial runs of this, and cancer reduction across the entire
    world population. it would seem that it viable, just a lot of testing needs to be done.

    Analog gave (me) hope to the future, a future where knowledge and being a good DIY can advance the world.


  • We always hear these same cool stories that they have come out with the next n of x field and will be able to do zyx with it.
    I think it is very cool that they found a way of doing this, but it would also be very cool to actually see/hear when the fully
    operational model available to the public will be done.

  • Wow I had no idea that the people engaging in this technology could be so sensationalist about how they talk about it. It is profound and very promising, but I hate how they are calling all these constructs 'robots' and 'nanobots' and talk about 'programming' them. That's a load of BS and it cheapens the power of the organic. These constructs are made of organic materials, not steel and silicon robots. Using this language gives the world an entirely wrong idea about what it is about and cheapens the decade
  • Thats ONE less thing to worry about!

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan