Intersection of robotics and nanotechnology enables targeted killing of cancerous tumors

Chinese-American nanoscience made a Great Leap Forward through the collaborative effort of the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST) in Beijing and Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute's Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics: in a first in vivo murine study, autonomous nanorobots proved to be intelligent delivery vehicles capable of causing complete cancer regression within a few days. DNA nanorobots employed one of the new drug delivery methods (which have always been a fundamental strength of nanotechnology) with thrombin-loaded DNA programmed to respond to a molecular trigger to fold into itself like an origami sheet and subsequently, like a tiny machine, deploy thrombin at the targeted point. By injecting tumor-associated blood vessels with thrombin that cut off tumor blood supply within 24 hours, nanorobots caused tumor cell shrinkage and necrosis. Most notably, clotting did not occur in healthy tissues other than those programmed for targeting.  Significantly, in a control study of side effects in porcines, healthy tissues also remained unaffected. Once fully tested and developed for human use, the technology will obviate the need for most chemotherapy models as well as use of targeted drugs, because elimination of blood supply limited to tumor cells yields far more precise results.

Now for the real hurdle: overcoming opposition to approval for human use by vested interests in the multi-billion chemotherapy and radiation therapy industry. Luckily, and quite significantly, this technology did not originate in Lobbyland, and following very recent reforms of the Chinese drug and device approval process, chances are that Chinese approvals of nanorobot therapy will be way faster, securing East Asia’s foothold in the future of cancer therapy. That would, of course, happen not a moment too soon, given the explosion of cancer rates in China, largely due to severe carcinogenic environmental pollution in heavily industrialized parts of the country that already experiences a wide array of consequences of limited effectiveness of environmental regulation, held back in favor of rapid and profitable industrialization. But the interesting observation is that forum shopping to defeat inefficient bureaucracies is gaining ground in science and technology and with startup environments, just as it did in litigation, taxation, treaty shopping and multiple other areas: market players vote with their feet on the quality, efficiency and stimulation effects of regulation, and pass value judgment on its overall utility.

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