recommended reading

Video: Nanorobots That Hide in Your Blood Like Viruses Could Someday Fight Cancer Kaulitzki

When it comes to fighting disease, your body’s defense system doesn’t like enlisting outside help. Overcoming this “locals only” attitude has been a huge handicap for scientists trying to make medical nanorobots, but now a team from Harvard thinks they’ve developed a disguise that will help the nanorobots sneak through and get to work fighting cancer.

The new technology builds structural hangers out of genetic code to attach a fatty covering to the nanodevice. This covering is similar to what some viruses use to move through our bodies undetected.

Medical nanorobots have been swimming in the scientific imagination since 1959, when Richard Feynman’s friend Albert Hibbs first proposed them. Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering gave the field a turboboost in 2009 when William Shih, this papers’ senior author, figured out how to fold DNA into programmable machines. He called his discovery DNA origami.

Shih and his team have been working on a disguise since at least 2012, when they figured out how to make their nanorobots bind to leukemia and lymphoma cells and send chemical instructions that made the cells self-destruct.

To create their prototype, the team first folded pieces of DNA into an octahedral shape the size of a virus. Then, they used shorter pieces to build handles along the outside to which they hung chunks of fatty lipids, which created a thin, obfuscating membrane.

They loaded the nanorobots with flourescant dye for tracking and injected them into mice. Nanorobots that fall prey to the immune system’s xenophobia end up in the gut. But, when they scanned the mice injected with cloaked nanorobots, their entire body glowed–evidence that the body was not dispatching them to its waste treatment system.

The initial test used inert, rather than cancer-fighting nanobots, which have only been tested in the lab. So this trial only confirms that cancer-fighting nano-ninjas are possible, not that they’re here. Creating a full-fledged, augmented immune system will require more lab work, followed by years of clinical trials. However, this research puts blood-borne systems capable of diagnosing and treating some of humanity’s worst diseases a step closer to reality.

Check out this video for a cool visualization of how the team put these little helpers together.

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here

(Image via Sebastian Kaulitzki/

Threatwatch Alert

Network intrusion

FBI Warns Doctors, Dentists Their FTP Servers Are Targets

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.