We have often talked about nano-carriers and even nano-robots that are supposed to go inside our body to potentially identify and even repair (and cure) cancerous cells. But any autonomous creation (like a robot) does need a power source for its motors. And according to the scientists at the University of California, this power source could very well be the stomach acid inside the organic recipient.
To that end, the researchers have for the first time tested their micro-motors inside a living animal. The test subjects were mice, and the scientists were able to feed them these tiny ‘torpedoes’ comprising of 20 micrometer-long polymer tubes with zinc coating. These tubes were tailored to react with the stomach acid of the mouse, which in turn created hydrogen bubbles that further fueled the micro-missiles. And once the micro-motors reached their destination (inside the mucus lining of the stomach), they deposited their payload of gold nanoparticles – which are easier to detect under microscopes.
For the testing phase, the team also fed gold nanoparticles directly into other mice belonging to a separate second batch. And, when the two batches were compared, the first batch of animals infused with micro-missiles showed three-times as much gold nanoparticle retention than the second batch. This result most probably pertains to a successful experiment, as mirrored by a remark from Tom Mallouk (from Pennsylvania State University) –
This is really a first-of-a-kind study and a very important one in the micromotors field. Importantly, it shows that micromotors can be more effective for the delivery of nanoparticles than passive carriers.
If that is the case, such procedures can allow drugs to be precisely targeted inside the human body. In other words, the tiny torpedoes can carry the medicinal component and directly treat the specific cancerous part (including peptic ulcers, gastritis or gastric cancer). And more importantly, such nano- and micro-carriers would be ‘powered’ by the organic setup of the person, thus alluding to a self-aiding scope.
Featured Image Credit: VICTOR HABBICK VISIONS/Science Photo Library/Corbis