Tag Archives: nanobots

Medical nanobots (nanorobots) and biocomputing; an important step in Russia

Russian researchers have reported a technique which can make logical calculations from within cells according to an Aug. 19, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily,

Researchers from the Institute of General Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences and MIPT [Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology] have made an important step towards creating medical nanorobots. They discovered a way of enabling nano- and microparticles to produce logical calculations using a variety of biochemical reactions.

An Aug. 19 (?), 2014 MIPT press release, which originated the news item, provides a good beginner’s explanation of bioengineering in the context of this research,

For example, modern bioengineering techniques allow for making a cell illuminate with different colors or even programming it to die, linking the initiation  of apoptosis [cell death] to the result of binary operations.

Many scientists believe logical operations inside cells or in artificial biomolecular systems to be a way of controlling biological processes and creating full-fledged micro-and nano-robots, which can, for example, deliver drugs on schedule to those tissues where they are needed.

Calculations using biomolecules inside cells, a.k.a. biocomputing, are a very promising and rapidly developing branch of science, according to the leading author of the study, Maxim Nikitin, a 2010 graduate of MIPT’s Department of Biological and Medical Physics. Biocomputing uses natural cellular mechanisms. It is far more difficult, however, to do calculations outside cells, where there are no natural structures that could help carry out calculations. The new study focuses specifically on extracellular biocomputing.

The study paves the way for a number of biomedical technologies and differs significantly from previous works in biocomputing, which focus on both the outside and inside of cells. Scientists from across the globe have been researching binary operations in DNA, RNA and proteins for over a decade now, but Maxim Nikitin and his colleagues were the first to propose and experimentally confirm a method to transform almost any type of nanoparticle or microparticle into autonomous biocomputing structures that are capable of implementing a functionally complete set of Boolean logic gates (YES, NOT, AND and OR) and binding to a target (such as a cell) as result of a computation. This method allows for selective binding to target cells, as well as it represents a new platform to analyze blood and other biological materials.

The prefix “nano” in this case is not a fad or a mere formality. A decrease in particle size sometimes leads to drastic changes in the physical and chemical properties of a substance. The smaller the size, the greater the reactivity; very small semiconductor particles, for example, may produce fluorescent light. The new research project used nanoparticles (i.e. particles of 100 nm) and microparticles (3000 nm or 3 micrometers).

Nanoparticles were coated with a special layer, which “disintegrated” in different ways when exposed to different combinations of signals. A signal here is the interaction of nanoparticles with a particular substance. For example, to implement the logical operation “AND” a spherical nanoparticle was coated with a layer of molecules, which held a layer of spheres of a smaller diameter around it. The molecules holding the outer shell were of two types, each type reacting only to a particular signal; when in contact with two different substances small spheres separated from the surface of a nanoparticle of a larger diameter. Removing the outer layer exposed the active parts of the inner particle, and it was then able to interact with its target. Thus, the team obtained one signal in response to two signals.

For bonding nanoparticles, the researchers selected antibodies. This also distinguishes their project from a number of previous studies in biocomputing, which used DNA or RNA for logical operations. These natural proteins of the immune system have a small active region, which responds only to certain molecules; the body uses the high selectivity of antibodies to recognize and neutralize bacteria and other pathogens.

Making sure that the combination of different types of nanoparticles and antibodies makes it possible to implement various kinds of logical operations, the researchers showed that cancer cells can be specifically targeted as well. The team obtained not simply nanoparticles that can bind to certain types of cells, but particles that look for target cells when both of two different conditions are met, or when two different molecules are present or absent. This additional control may come in handy for more accurate destruction of cancer cells with minimal impact on healthy tissues and organs.

Maxim Nikitin said that although this is just as mall step towards creating efficient nanobiorobots, this area of science is very interesting and opens up great vistas for further research, if one draws an analogy between the first works in the creation of nanobiocomputers and the creation of the first diodes and transistors, which resulted in the rapid development of electronic computers.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Biocomputing based on particle disassembly by Maxim P. Nikitin, Victoria O. Shipunova, Sergey M. Deyev, & Petr I. Nikitin. Nature Nanotechnology (2014) doi:10.1038/nnano.2014.156 Published online 17 August 2014

This paper is behind a paywall.

University of Alberta (Canada) student nanorobotics team demonstrates potential medical technology in competitiion

A University of Alberta (Canada) nanorobotics team has entered its nanobot system into the International Mobile Micro/nanorobotics Competition in Karlsruhe, Germany, as part of the ICRA Robot Challenges at the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) being held May 6 – 10, 2013 in Karlsruhe, Germany. From the May 6, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

A team of engineering students is putting a twist on robotics, developing a nano-scale robotics system that could lead to new medical therapies.

In less than a year, the U of A team has assembled a working system that manipulates nano-scale ‘robots’. The team uses magnets to manipulate a droplet filled with iron oxide nanoparticles. Barely visible to the naked eye, the droplet measures 400-500 micrometres.

The May 3, 2013 University of Alberta news release by Richard Cairney, which originated the news item, describes the system,

Using a joystick, team members control the robot, making it travel along a specific route, navigate an obstacle course or to push micro-sized objects from one point to another.

The challenge is simple in concept but highly technical and challenging to execute: the team first injects a water droplet with iron oxide nanoparticles into into oil. The droplet holds its shape because it is encased in a surfactant—a soap-like formula that repels water on one side and attracts water on the other.

“It’s like a capsule,” said team member Yang Gao, who is working on her master’s degree in chemical engineering. “It’s a vehicle for the nanoparticles.”

The iron-filled droplet is placed in a playing ‘field’ measuring 2 x 3 millimetres. The team uses four magnets mounted each side of the rectangular field to move the droplet in a figure-8, manoeuvring it through four gates built into the field.

“We use the magnets to pull the droplet,” explains electrical engineering PhD student Remko van den Hurk.

In a second challenge, the team will be required to use the droplet as a bulldozer of sorts, to arrange micro-scale objects that measure 200 x 300 micrometres into a particular order on an even smaller playing field.

The competition has its serious side, these nanobots could one day be used in medical applications.

In the meantime there’s the competition, good luck!

Swarming robot droplets

The robot droplets are a bit bigger than you might expect, the size of ping pong balls, but the idea is intriguing and for those who’ve read Michael Crichton’s book, Prey, it could seem quite disturbing (from the University of Colorado Boulder multimedia page for ‘tiny robots’),

For anyone unfamiliar with Crichton’s Prey, here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry about the book which features nanobots operating as a swarm,

… As a result, hazardous elements such as the assemblers, the bacteria, and the nanobots were blown into the desert, evolving and eventually forming autonomous swarms. These swarms appear to be solar-powered and self-sufficient, reproducing and evolving rapidly. The swarms exhibit predatory behavior, attacking and killing animals in the wild, using code that Jack himself worked on. Most alarmingly, the swarms seem to possess rudimentary intelligence, the ability to quickly learn and to innovate. The swarms tend to wander around the fab plant during the day but quickly leave when strong winds blow or night falls.

The Dec. 14, 2012 posting by Alan on the Science Business website describes,

A computer science lab at University of Colorado in Boulder is building a miniature, limited-function robot designed to work in a swarm of similar devices. Computer science professor Nikolaus Correll and colleagues are building these small devices that they call droplets as building blocks for increasingly complex systems.

A University of Colorado Boulder Dec. 14, 2012 news release provides more details,

Correll and his computer science research team, including research associate Dustin Reishus and professional research assistant Nick Farrow, have developed a basic robotic building block, which he hopes to reproduce in large quantities to develop increasingly complex systems.

Recently the team created a swarm of 20 robots, each the size of a pingpong ball, which they call “droplets.” When the droplets swarm together, Correll said, they form a “liquid that thinks.”

To accelerate the pace of innovation, he has created a lab where students can explore and develop new applications of robotics with basic, inexpensive tools.

Similar to the fictional “nanomorphs” depicted in the “Terminator” films, large swarms of intelligent robotic devices could be used for a range of tasks. Swarms of robots could be unleashed to contain an oil spill or to self-assemble into a piece of hardware after being launched separately into space, Correll said.

Correll plans to use the droplets to demonstrate self-assembly and swarm-intelligent behaviors such as pattern recognition, sensor-based motion and adaptive shape change. These behaviors could then be transferred to large swarms for water- or air-based tasks.

Correll hopes to create a design methodology for aggregating the droplets into more complex behaviors such as assembling parts of a large space telescope or an aircraft.

There’s also talk about creating gardens in space,

He [Correll] also is continuing work on robotic garden technology he developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009. Correll has been working with Joseph Tanner in CU-Boulder’s aerospace engineering sciences department to further develop the technology, involving autonomous sensors and robots that can tend gardens, in conjunction with a model of a long-term space habitat being built by students.

Correll says there is virtually no limit to what might be created through distributed intelligence systems.

“Every living organism is made from a swarm of collaborating cells,” he said. “Perhaps some day, our swarms will colonize space where they will assemble habitats and lush gardens for future space explorers.”

The scientists don’t seem to harbour any trepidations, I guess they’re leaving that to the writers.

RNA (ribonucleic acid) video game

I am a great fan of  Foldit, a protein-folding game I have mentioned several times here (my first posting about Foldit was Aug. 6, 2010) and now via the Foresight Insitute’s July 16, 2012 blog posting, I have discovered an RNA video game (Note: I have removed links),

As we pointed out a few months ago, the greater complexity of folding rules for RNA compared to its chemical cousin DNA gives RNA a greater variety of compact, three-dimensional shapes and a different set of potential functions than is the case with DNA, and this gives RNA nanotechnology a different set of advantages compared to DNA nanotechnology … Proteins have even more complex folding rules and an even greater variety of structures and functions. We also noted here that online gamers playing Foldit topped scientists in redesigning a protein to achieve a novel enzymatic activity that might be especially useful in developing molecular building blocks for molecular manufacturing. Now KurzweilAI.net brings news of an online game that allows players to design RNA molecules …

Here’s more from the KurzwelAI.net June 26, 3012 posting about the new RNA game EteRNA,

EteRNA, an online game with more than 38,000 registered users, allows players to design molecules of ribonucleic acid — RNA — that have the power to build proteins or regulate genes.

EteRNA players manipulate nucleotides, the fundamental building blocks of RNA, to coax molecules into shapes specified by the game.

Those shapes represent how RNA appears in nature while it goes about its work as one of life’s most essential ingredients.

EteRNA was developed by scientists at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities, who use the designs created by players to decipher how real RNA works. The game is a direct descendant of Foldit — another science crowdsourcing tool disguised as entertainment — which gets players to help figure out the folding structures of proteins.

Here’s how the EteRNA folks describe this game (from the About EteRNA page),

By playing EteRNA, you will participate in creating the first large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs. Your efforts will help reveal new principles for designing RNA-based switches and nanomachines — new systems for seeking and eventually controlling living cells and disease-causing viruses. By interacting with thousands of players and learning from real experimental feedback, you will be pioneering a completely new way to do science. Join the global laboratory!

The About EteRNA webpage also offers a discussion about RNA,

RNA is often called the “Dark Matter of Biology.” While originally thought to be an unstable cousin of DNA, recent discoveries have shown that RNA can do amazing things. They play key roles in the fundamental processes of life and disease, from protein synthesis and HIV replication, to cellular control. However, the full biological and medical implications of these discoveries is still being worked out.

RNA is made of four nucleotides (A, C,G,and U, which stand for adenine, cytosine, guanine, and uracil). Chemically, each of these building blocks is made of atoms of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and hydrogen. When you design RNAs with EteRNA, you’re really creating a chain of these nucleotides.

RNA Nucleotides (from the About EteRNA webpage)

Scientists do not yet understand all of RNA’s roles, but we already know about a large collection of RNAs that are critical for life: (see the Thermus Thermophilus image representing following points)

  1. mRNAs are short copies of a cell’s DNA genome that gets cut up, pasted, spliced, and otherwise remixed before getting translated into proteins.
  1. rRNA forms the core machinery of an ancient machine, the ribosome. This machine synthesizes the proteins of your cells and all living cells, and is the target of most antibiotics.
  2. miRNAs (microRNAs) are short molecules (about 22-letters) that are used by all complex cells as commands for silencing genes and appear to have roles in cancer, heart disease, and other medical problems.
  3. Riboswitches are ubiquitous in bacteria. They sense all sorts of small molecules that could be food or signals from other bacteria, and turn on or off genes by changing their shapes. These are interesting targets for new antibiotics.
  4. Ribozymes are RNAs that can act as enzymes. They catalyze chemical reactions like protein synthesis and RNA splicing, and provide evidence of RNA’s dominance in a primordial stage of Life’s evolution.
  5. Retroviruses, like Hepatitis C, poliovirus, and HIV, are very large RNAs coated with proteins.
  6. And much much more… shRNA, piRNA, snRNA, and other new classes of important RNAs are being discovered every year.

Thermus Thermophilus – Large Subunit Ribosomal RNA
Source: Center for Molecular Biology (downloaded from the About EteRNA webpage)

I do wonder about the wordplay EteRNA/eternal. Are these scientists trying to tell us something?

Magical nanobots at University of Florida kill (almost) 100% of Hepatitis C virus—in the lab

I’ve always preferred the term nanobots but the folks at the University of Florida are calling them nanorobots, from the July 16, 2012 news item on phys.org,

University of Florida researchers have moved a step closer to treating diseases on a cellular level by creating a tiny particle that can be programmed to shut down the genetic production line that cranks out disease-related proteins.

In laboratory tests, these newly created “nanorobots” all but eradicated hepatitis C virus infection. The programmable nature of the particle makes it potentially useful against diseases such as cancer and other viral infections.

The research effort, led by Y. Charles Cao, a UF associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Chen Liu, a professor of pathology and endowed chair in gastrointestinal and liver research in the UF College of Medicine, is described online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The news item originated with a July 16, 2012 news release from the University of Florida which goes on to explain how the researchers succeeded,

The Holy Grail of nanotherapy is an agent so exquisitely selective that it enters only diseased cells, targets only the specified disease process within those cells and leaves healthy cells unharmed.

To demonstrate how this can work, Cao and colleagues, with funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Naval Research and the UF [University of Florida] Research Opportunity Seed Fund, created and tested a particle that targets hepatitis C virus in the liver and prevents the virus from making copies of itself.

Hepatitis C infection causes liver inflammation, which can eventually lead to scarring and cirrhosis. The disease is transmitted via contact with infected blood, most commonly through injection drug use, needlestick injuries in medical settings, and birth to an infected mother. More than 3 million people in the United States are infected and about 17,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients can go many years without symptoms, which can include nausea, fatigue and abdominal discomfort.

Current hepatitis C treatments involve the use of drugs that attack the replication machinery of the virus. But the therapies are only partially effective, on average helping less than 50 percent of patients, according to studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine and other journals. Side effects vary widely from one medication to another, and can include flu-like symptoms, anemia and anxiety.

Cao and colleagues, including graduate student Soon Hye Yang and postdoctoral associates Zhongliang Wang, Hongyan Liu and Tie Wang, wanted to improve on the concept of interfering with the viral genetic material in a way that boosted therapy effectiveness and reduced side effects.

The particle they created can be tailored to match the genetic material of the desired target of attack, and to sneak into cells unnoticed by the body’s innate defense mechanisms.

Recognition of genetic material from potentially harmful sources is the basis of important treatments for a number of diseases, including cancer, that are linked to the production of detrimental proteins. It also has potential for use in detecting and destroying viruses used as bioweapons.

The new virus-destroyer, called a nanozyme, has a backbone of tiny gold particles and a surface with two main biological components. The first biological portion is a type of protein called an enzyme that can destroy the genetic recipe-carrier, called mRNA, for making the disease-related protein in question. The other component is a large molecule called a DNA oligonucleotide that recognizes the genetic material of the target to be destroyed and instructs its neighbor, the enzyme, to carry out the deed. By itself, the enzyme does not selectively attack hepatitis C, but the combo does the trick.

“They completely change their properties,” Cao said.

In laboratory tests, the treatment led to almost a 100 percent decrease in hepatitis C virus levels. In addition, it did not trigger the body’s defense mechanism, and that reduced the chance of side effects. Still, additional testing is needed to determine the safety of the approach. [emphases mine]

This treatment builds on some previous research,

The UF nanoparticle design takes inspiration from the Nobel prize-winning discovery of a process in the body in which one part of a two-component complex destroys the genetic instructions for manufacturing protein, and the other part serves to hold off the body’s immune system attacks. This complex controls many naturally occurring processes in the body, so drugs that imitate it have the potential to hijack the production of proteins needed for normal function. The UF-developed therapy tricks the body into accepting it as part of the normal processes, but does not interfere with those processes.

Since there’s no mention of human clinical trials, I’m guessing that we are at least 10 years from seeing this therapeutic agent on the market.

After drafting this post yesterday (July 17, 2012) and while waiting to post it today, I found Dexter Johnson’s July 17 2012 posting where he makes some important points about this research (Note: I have removed a link),

Of course, this is a long way from becoming a treatment anytime soon. A major caveat is that the use of nanotreatments for the targeting and destroying of abnormal cells like cancer cells is always problematic since those cells are “still us” as George Whitesides noted some time back.  It’s always a bit of a tricky business to make sure that nanoparticles are targeting those biological processes within us that we want stopped and not the ones we want to keep.

Dexter goes on to comment about using the terms ‘nanobots’ or ‘nano robots’; he’s less sanguine about it than I am.

Driving stick with your nanobots

According to a May 24, 2012 news item on Nanowerk, Chinese scientists have developed a ‘clutch’ to control speed in nanomotors. There’s an excellent explanation of the research in a May 29, 2012 posting by Guest_Jim_* on the Overclockers Club website,

Automatic transmission is fairly useful for many people who just need a car that gets them from point A to point B. They may not have as much control during the trip as someone with a manual transmission, but they do not need it. In the nanoscale world though, control is needed, which is why Chinese researchers have created a nanoclutch, as reported by the American Institute of Physics.

Unlike the transmission in your car, this device does not use any gears.

Here’s how it works (from the May 24,2012 news item on Nanowerk),

The nanoclutch consists of two carbon nanotubes (CNTs), one inside the other, separated by a film of water. Electrowetting forces control the friction between the water and the inner and outer walls of the CNTs. When the two tubes are electrically charged, the water confined between them can transmit the torque from the inner tube to the outer tube, and the device is said to be in the engaged state. When the CNTs are uncharged, the device is in the disengaged state.

… Though further work is needed, they say the model may be helpful in designing and manufacturing nanorobots.

You can find the abstract for the paper here  (although the paper itself is behind a paywall). From the abstract,

Importantly, the proposed CNT-CC-SRNC [charge-controlled speed-regulating nanoclutch] can perform stepless speed-regulating function through changing the magnitude of the charge assigned on CNT atoms.

If I read this rightly, it means that they can exert a very high level of control which could prove handy with nanobots. Here’s the full citation for the paper,

J. Appl. Phys. 111, 114304 (2012); http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4724344 (5 pages)

Carbon nanotube-based charge-controlled speed-regulating nanoclutch

Zhong-Qiang Zhang, Hong-Fei Ye, Zhen Liu, Jian-Ning Ding, Guang-Gui Cheng, Zhi-Yong Ling, Yong-Gang Zheng, Lei Wang, and Jin-Bao Wang

For anyone who may not be familiar with the slang, ‘driving stick’ means driving with a manual transmission.

NASA, patents, swarmbots, and auctions

NASA was selling some of its patents a week ago according to Robert McMillan in a March 29, 2012 article for Wired Enterprise,

Psst. If you’re thinking of getting into the intelligent smoke-detector business or building a swarm of nano-bots, NASA has a few patents for you.

In fact, you might even get them at a bargain price. They’re up for auction Thursday [March 29, 2012] in Los Angeles, at an event run by the patent-selling company ICAP Patent Brokerage. NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is listing them as part of a pilot program that has been running for the past four years, trying to make its space-aged technology available to the public.

Who wouldn’t want a crack at the NASA patent, “Swarm Autonomic Agents with Self-Destruct Capability?”

You can still find the listing of patents up for auction here at ICAP’s (patent brokerage) Spring 2012 catalog page. I was amused to note that the NASA patents were classified as ‘open outcry’ auction items. That’s exactly what it sounds like, from the Wikipedia essay (I have removed footnotes, etc.),

An English auction is a type of auction, whose most typical form is the “open outcry” auction. The auctioneer opens the auction by announcing a Suggested Opening Bid, a starting price or reserve for the item on sale and then accepts increasingly higher bids from the floor consisting of buyers with a possible interest in the item. Unlike sealed bid auctions, “open outcry” auctions are “open” or fully transparent as the identity of all bidders is disclosed to each other during the auction. The highest bidder at any given moment is considered to have the standing bid, which can only be displaced by a higher bid from a competing buyer. If no competing bidder challenges the standing bid within a given time frame, the standing bid becomes the winner, and the item is sold to the highest bidder at a price equal to his or her bid.

I also found that this event is more than just an auction, from the Spring 2012 Schedule page,

Spring 2012 Auction Full Event Schedule

Navigating the Catalina Channel: The ICAP Patent Brokerage Summit on IP Strategy and 15th ICAP Ocean Tomo IP Auction  

Tuesday, March 27 

Welcome Reception Lobby Bar- (7:00pm-9:00pm)

Wednesday, March 28 

Registration Opens (8:00am) 

Breakfast (8:00am – 9:00am) – Catalina

General Session (9:15am – 12:00p) – Point Vicente

Opening Remarks and Welcome from Dean Becker, CEO ICAP Patent Brokerage

Every Company is an IP Company – The “Glassybaby Syndrome”

Louis Carbonneau; The Point Law

Take-away:  Every company needs an IP Strategy

Practical Aspects of Intellectual Property as Strategic Business Tools – Swords & Shields

Speaker:  Peter McDermott; Banner, Witcoff

Take-away:  Co-managing prosecution and litigation – an integration strategy

Lunch (12:00pm – 1:30pm) – Catalina

Breakout Sessions (1:30pm – 3:30pm)

Commercialization & Monetization Strategies to Drive Business Value – Point Vicente 1

Moderator:  John Pryor; ICAP Patent Brokerage

Building Business Value Through IP Management – Point Vicente 2

Moderator:  Dr. Elvir Causevic, Ocean Tomo

IP Marketing to Build Business Value – Point Vicente 3

Moderator:  Jennifer Wolfe, Wolfe SBMC; Author Brand ReWired – invited

Networking Break (3:30pm – 4:30pm) – Catalina

Breakout Sessions Continue (4:45pm – 5:45pm) 

Commercialization & Monetization Strategies to Drive Business Value – Point Vicente 1

Moderator:  John Pryor, ICAP Patent Brokerage

Building Business Value Through IP Management – Point Vicente 2

Moderator:  Dr. Elvir Causivic, Ocean Tomo

IP Marketing to Build Business Value – Point Vicente 3

Moderator:  Jennifer Wolfe, Wolfe SBMC; Author Brand ReWired – invited

Dinner (6:30pm cocktails, followed by dinner) – Terranea  

Thursday, March 29

Registration Opens (8:00am)

Breakfast (8:00am – 9:00am) – Catalina

General Session (9:15am – 12:30pm) – Point Vicente 

Building Company Value Through IP – Lessons from Mom, Pop, David and Goliath

Speaker: Louis Foreman; Enventys

Take-away:  In the area of IP Strategy, one size does not fit all

Flat World:  International Patent Strategy

Speaker:  Robert Cantrell:  ThinkIP Strategy 

Take-away:  Managing global Freedom to Operate

Breakout Session Reports

Commercialization & Monetization – Moderator:  John Pryor, ICAP Patent Brokerage

IP Management Roundtable – Moderator:  Dr. Elvir Causivic, Ocean Tomo

IP Marketing to Build Business Value – Moderator:  Jennifer Wolfe, Wolfe SBMC; Author Brand ReWired – invited

Lunch (12:30 – 1:30) – Catalina

Auction (Doors Open 1:45pm; Auction begins 2:00pm) – Ballroom 

They charged a $1495 US registration fee with hotel accommodation additional to the fee. You may want to start saving for the next event now.

I wonder if anyone bid on the ‘swarmbots’ and if so, who? Finally, if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say these folks are firmly committed to patents as a means of control rather than as a means of stimulating innovation.

Bacteria, pyramids, cancer, and Sylvain Martel

Canada’s national newspaper (as they like to bill themselves), the Globe and Mail featured Québec researcher’s (Sylvain Martel) work in a Dec. 13, 2011 article by Bertrand Marotte. From the news article,

Professor Sylvain Martel is already a world leader in the field of nano-robotics, but now he’s working to make a medical dream reality: To deliver toxic drug treatments directly to cancerous cells without damaging the body’s healthy tissue.

I have profiled Martel’s work before in an April 6 2010 posting about bacterial nanobots (amongst other subjects) and in a March 16, 2011 posting about his work with remote-controlled microcarriers.

It seems that his next project will combine the work on bacteria and microcarriers (from the Globe and Mail article),

Bolstered by his recent success in guiding micro-carriers loaded with cancer-fighting medications into a rabbit’s liver, he and his team of up to 20 researchers from several disciplines are working to transfer the method to the treatment of colorectal cancer in humans within four years.

This time around he is not using micro-carriers to deliver the drug to the tumour, but rather bacteria.

Here’s a video of the bacteria which illustrates Martel’s earlier success with ‘training’ them to build a pyramid.

The latest breakthrough reported in March 2011 (from my posting) implemented an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine,

Known for being the world’s first researcher to have guided a magnetic sphere through a living artery, Professor Martel is announcing a spectacular new breakthrough in the field of nanomedicine. Using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system, his team successfully guided microcarriers loaded with a dose of anti-cancer drug through the bloodstream of a living rabbit, right up to a targeted area in the liver, where the drug was successfully administered. This is a medical first that will help improve chemoembolization, a current treatment for liver cancer.

Here’s what Martel is trying to accomplish now (from the Globe and Mail article),

The MRI machine’s magnetic field is manipulated by [a] sophisticated software program that helps guide the magnetically sensitive bacteria to the tumour mass.

Attached to the bacteria is a capsule containing the cancer-fighting drug. The bacteria are tricked into swimming to an artificially created “magnetic north” at the centre of the tumour, where they will die off after 30 to 40 minutes. The micro-mules, however, have left their precious cargo: the capsule, whose envelope breaks and releases the drug.

I’m not entirely sure why the drug won’t destroy health tissue after it’s finished with the tumour but that detail is not offered in Marotte’s story which, in the last few paragraphs, switches focus from medical breakthroughs to the importance of venture capital funding for Canadian biotech research.

I wish Martel and his team great success.

Bot bot here and bot bot there and a bot bot everywhere but not Old Macdonald’s Farm

The Materials Research Society (MRS) has a Fall 2011 meeting in Boston, Massachusetts scheduled for Nov. 28, 2011 to Dec. 2, 2011, which will feature amongst other exhibits,  ‘mibots’. From the Nov. 9, 2011 news item on Azonano,

…  new “miBots” from Imina Technologies (Ecublens, Switzerland).

.. are more than nanomanipulators. Unlike conventional systems, they are virtually untethered and move independently. Working individually or in groups, they can be fitted with a variety of tools such as grippers, probes, and optical fibers so that, in addition to manipulating the sample, they can illuminate a nano workspace and conduct force or electrical measurements. Vacuum ready, miBots’ proprietary monolithic structure makes them robust, mechanically and thermally stable, and less sensitive to vibration.

Imina Technologies has engineered a variety of stage options for these novel mini robots. For conventional installation on inverted light microscopes (LM), SEMs, or focused-ion beam systems (FIBs), the “miBase” provides control and maneuvering room for up to four miBots. Special apertures accommodate illumination for the LM and stubs for SEMs, and multiple coaxial I/O connections enable electrical characterization and testing.

You can find out more about Imina Technologies and their ‘mibots’ here.

For a completely different kind of bot, a company named Nanobotmodels, situated in the Ukraine, offers illustration, animations, and presentation materials. From the company’s About page,

Our company Nanobotmodels was founded in 2007 and its goal is todevelop modern art-science-technology intersections. Nanotechnology boosts medicine, engineering, biotechnology, electronics soon, so artwork and vision of the nanofuture will be very useful.

We are making hi-end nanotechnology and nanomedicine illustration and animation. You can imagine any interesting-to-you animation, illustration or presentation materials, and we can make them real.

The level of detail in each medical illustration can be used to simplify complex structures and make them visually attractive.

Our clients include the largest medicine photobanks, nanotechnology magazines and publications, educational organization, and private companies.

Company was founded by CEO Svidinenko Yuriy, futurist and nanotechnology artist.

Our team consists of modern artists, modelers and nanotechnology scientists.

Here’s a bit more about the company’s work in medical illustration from a Nov. 11, 2011 news item at Nanotechnology Now,

One heat therapy to destroy cancer tumors using nanoparticles is called AuroShell™. The AuroShell™ nanoparticles circulate through a patient’s bloodstream, exiting where the blood vessels are leaking at the site of cancer tumors. Once the nanoparticles accumulate at the tumor the AuroShell™ nanoparticles are used to concentrate the heat from infrared light to destroy cancer cells with minimal damage to surrounding healthy cells. Nanobotmodels company provides good visual illustration of this process. Nanospectra Biosciences has developed such a treatment using AuroShell™ that has been approved for a pilot trial with human patients.

Gold nanoparticles can absorb different frequencies of light, depending on their shape. Rod-shaped particles absorb light at near-infrared frequency; this light heats the rods but passes harmlessly through human tissue. Sphere-shaped nanoparticles absorb laser radiation and passes harmlessly through human tissue too.

Nanobotmodels Company provides visual illustration of nanoparticle cancer treatment. Our goal – make realistic vision of modern drug delivery technology.

I found this sample on the company’s website gallery,

Illustration from Nanobotmodels website: Nanomechanical robots attacking cancer cell

You can find more artwork here.

Those are all the bots for today.