Researchers at the École Polytechnique de Montréal, in Canada have created a microscopic device that could offer radical new cancer treatments. The team of researchers, led by professor of computer engineering Sylvain Martel, has coupled live bacteria to microscopic beads to create a self-propelling "nanobot." Although this has been done in the past, this is the first time it has been demonstrated that such hybrids can be steered through the body using resonance imaging. The team presented their latest findings at the IEEE 2008 Biorobotics Conference last month.
The bacteria's small size and flagella make them ideal for use in developing treatments, as they can fit through the smallest blood vessels in the human body. And researchers have developed a micro-vehicle to carry the nanobots through larger blood vessels to tumors. Ultimately, the team plans to modify the polymer beads so that they carry cancer-killing drugs.
Some have questioned whether the immune system would react to the introduction of foreign bodies before the bacteria is able to reach the tumor, but Martel and his team remain confident about the promises of this approach. "We are very confident from our preliminary tests that this [scenario] will not be an issue," he told the MIT Technology Review. According to Martel, because the immune system has not encountered these bacteria before, it would not have time to wipe out the microbots before they reach their target.
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