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These DNA ‘Nanobots’ Could Help Kill Cancer By Choking Off Its Life Blood

February 13, 2018, 8:40 PM UTC

The cancer treatment space has given way to some extraordinary advances in recent years, including therapies that can re-engineer your own cells to fight cancer. But, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, scientists may be on the cusp of yet another significant milestone—tiny little cancer-killing robots that choke off the blood supply to tumors.

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First things first: This study was done in mice, so there’s still a long ways to go before the nanobots come anywhere close to being deployed in humans. The tech, however, is fascinating; it involves recruiting engineered DNA bots to home in on cancerous cells to inject them with a deadly payload.

“Using tumor-bearing mouse models, we demonstrate that intravenously injected DNA nanorobots deliver thrombin specifically to tumor-associated blood vessels and induce intravascular thrombosis, resulting in tumor necrosis and inhibition of tumor growth,” said the study authors.

Translation: These little biological weapons were able to deliver a dose of lifeblood-blocking, clot-inducing medicine to mice with human breast cancer tumors. But perhaps the most significant part of the tech is its precision, at least in the mouse models: The programmed DNA bots avoided causing any clotting or harm to healthy cells.