New nanorobotic agents capable of navigating through the bloodstream to administer a drug with precision by specifically targeting the active cancerous cells of tumors have been developed by researchers from Polytechnique Montreal, Universite de Montreal and McGill University.
This breakthrough technique of injecting medication ensures the optimal targeting of a tumor and avoids jeopardizing the integrity of organs and surrounding healthy tissues. As a result, the drug dosage that is highly toxic for the human organism could be significantly reduced. This scientific breakthrough has just been published in the prestigious journal Nature Nanotechnology in an article titled "Magneto-aerotactic bacteria deliver drug-containing nanoliposomes to tumor hypoxic regions." The article notes the results of the research done on mice, which were successfully administered nanorobotic agents into colorectal tumors.
"These legions of nanorobotic agents were actually composed of more than 100 million flagellated bacteria - and therefore self-propelled - and loaded with drugs that moved by taking the most direct path between the drug's injection point and the area of the body to cure," explains Professor Sylvain Martel, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Medical Nanorobotics and Director of the Polytechnique Montreal Nanorobotics Laboratory, who heads the research team's work.
To move around, bacteria used by Professor Martel's team rely on two natural systems. A kind of compass created by the synthesis of a chain of magnetic nanoparticles allows them to move in the direction of a magnetic field, while a sensor measuring oxygen concentration enables them to reach and remain in the tumor's active regions. By harnessing these two transportation systems and by exposing the bacteria to a computer-controlled magnetic field, researchers showed that these bacteria could perfectly replicate artificial nanorobots of the future designed for this kind of task.
"This innovative use of nanotransporters will have an impact not only on creating more advanced engineering concepts and original intervention methods, but it also throws the door wide open to the synthesis of new vehicles for therapeutic, imaging and diagnostic agents," Professor Martel adds. "Chemotherapy, which is so toxic for the entire human body, could make use of these natural nanorobots to move drugs directly to the targeted area, eliminating the harmful side effects while also boosting its therapeutic effectiveness."