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posted by Dopefish on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:00AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the science-rules dept.

ticho writes:

"For the first time, a team of chemists and engineers at Penn State University have placed tiny synthetic motors inside live human cells, propelled them with ultrasonic waves, and steered them magnetically. It's not exactly 'Fantastic Voyage', but it's close. The nanomotors, which are rocket-shaped metal particles, move around inside the cells, spinning and battering against the cell membrane.

'As these nanomotors move around and bump into structures inside the cells, the live cells show internal mechanical responses that no one has seen before,' said Tom Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics at Penn State. 'This research is a vivid demonstration that it may be possible to use synthetic nanomotors to study cell biology in new ways. We might be able to use nanomotors to treat cancer and other diseases by mechanically manipulating cells from the inside. Nanomotors could perform intracellular surgery and deliver drugs non-invasively to living tissues.'"

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  • (Score: 5, Funny) by clone141166 on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:03AM

    by clone141166 (59) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:03AM (#1451)

    We are the borg, resistance is futile.

    • (Score: 1) by similar_name on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:22AM

      by similar_name (71) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:22AM (#1459)
      I think this tech may not play well with MRIs. I wonder how the borg would have liked an MRI?
      • (Score: 1) by fleg on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:30AM

        by fleg (128) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 18 2014, @07:30AM (#1464)

        >I think this tech may not play well with MRIs.

        yes, could turn you into a sieve!

        as to the borg, you'd have to persuade one to get into the scanner first.
        might be tricky.

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by mrbluze on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:31AM

        by mrbluze (49) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:31AM (#1482) Journal

        You're right, it won't be good with MRI. The motors would hurtle through cell walls at great speed, after which the little motor could be anywhere.

        The thing that might make this technology not-so-useful in vivo is the imprecision with which ultrasound and magnetism can be directed to deeper tissues.

        --
        Do it yourself, 'cause no one else will do it yourself.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by lubricus on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:56AM

    by lubricus (232) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @08:56AM (#1487)

    This research is a vivid demonstration that it may be possible to use synthetic nanomotors to study cell biology in new ways.

    Don't get me wrong, this is cool research and very promising for a lot of things, (I agree with the above),but it's sad that researchers always feel like they have to add this to the end of every paper:

    We might be able to use nanomotors to treat cancer and other diseases by mechanically manipulating cells from the inside. Nanomotors could perform intracellular surgery and deliver drugs non-invasively to living tissues.

    This is really a judgement by the researchers on the public, for whom the only reason to do biological research is cancer. Only cancer. Does this cure cancer?

    Sad but savvy I guess.

    --
    ... sorry about the typos
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by juniorkindergarten on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:25AM

      by juniorkindergarten (1198) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @09:25AM (#1497)

      Cancer research is where the money is. If you want funding for your idea and you can make it part of cancer research, then you have a better chance of funding. Not to say that other diseases such as diabetes don't get funding, or as much, its just that cancer is a strong rallying cry for funding.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by combatserver on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:47AM

        by combatserver (38) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @10:47AM (#1520)

        "...or as much, its just that cancer is a strong rallying cry for funding."

        It's a shame that a cure would put a stop to all that wonderful funding.

        --
        I hope I can change this later...
        • (Score: 1) by FatPhil on Tuesday February 18 2014, @12:54PM

          by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Tuesday February 18 2014, @12:54PM (#1565) Homepage

          While there are large numbers of tubbies in the world, there will always be a diabetes budget...

          --
          Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19 2014, @03:45AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19 2014, @03:45AM (#2132)

            Nonsense. If someone developed a custom biological prosthetic pancreas that didn't have the same vulnerabilities to diabetic functioning that our naturally occurring kidneys have, and it was done in an affordable manner with minimal side effects (if any), it'd pretty quickly put a damper on further diabetes research.

            Cures have a tendency of doing that, regardless of the disease in question.

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by mrbluze on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:22AM

        by mrbluze (49) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:22AM (#1532) Journal

        How would a nanomachine be useful in cancer research? I can think of a few ways:

        • Drug delivery
        • Cell lysis on activation ... strong magnets, ironically.
        • Detection

        The key would be for the machine to recognize proteins

        --
        Do it yourself, 'cause no one else will do it yourself.
        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by lubricus on Tuesday February 18 2014, @03:23PM

          by lubricus (232) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @03:23PM (#1647)

          Sure, but that's the thing. Even with this, some research which is probably more applicable to cancer research than most that proclaim it, the application is so far down the road as to be entirely speculative.

          How would a nanomachine be useful in cancer research?

          First, we're talking about nanomotors, not nanomachines. How big is that gap? One decade, two, three? We've had nano-motors for a while now, where are the programmable nanomachines everyone is always talking about?
          Drug delivery: How are the cells detected and targeted? (This is the most biggest challenge).
          Cell lysis: (See above).
          Detection: Perhaps this is the strongest prospect, but again, what is this miraculous nano machine detecting? There are dozens if not hundreds of different types of cancer cells.

          The only benefit I can think of is little roving smart-missiles taking out metastatic cells, but even then, modified viruses will probably be used before a nano machine.

          If, on the other hand you simply say that this group can control and direct nanomotors in living cells, and would like to use them to address issues in cell regulation and physiology, I could see how this would be extremely useful within 3-5 years, and I wouldn't consider that pure speculation.

          Basic research is cool! Let's try to sell it for what it is, then other cool, but non-cancer related work will be supported also.

          --
          ... sorry about the typos
          • (Score: 1) by ragequit on Tuesday February 18 2014, @03:36PM

            by ragequit (44) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @03:36PM (#1655) Journal

            I'm fairly certain that nanomachines (esp. those depicted in The Diamond Age) will require a fundamental breakthrough in physics in general. Until then, it will be "Breakthrough, nanomotors -- On the internet!"

            --
            The above views are fabricated for your reading pleasure.
    • (Score: 2, Funny) by dilbert on Tuesday February 18 2014, @02:20PM

      by dilbert (444) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @02:20PM (#1609)
      "We might be able to use nanomotors to treat cancer and other diseases by mechanically manipulating cells from the inside. Nanomotors could perform intracellular surgery and deliver drugs non-invasively to living tissues."

      If they really wanted to get funding from the government suits, they should change that line to something along the lines of we will be able to essentially remove free will from the general public by using nanomotors to stimulate dopamine creation when they obey, and stimulating pain centers in the brain when they disobey.

      I for one welcome our new nanomotor overlords.

    • (Score: 1) by NovelUserName on Tuesday February 18 2014, @05:47PM

      by NovelUserName (768) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @05:47PM (#1751)

      Part of this may simply be that cancer is the most obvious therapeutic use for something which acts like an eggbeater inside a living cell. Even scientists will be skeptical that pureeing the inside of cells would find other target diseases.

      This really strikes me as a tool to enable other research or therapies, rather than a solution by itself. I'll have to look into the research from this group, but I'd be more interested in whether these would enable long term monitoring of cell activity by acting as conductors to a sensor array of some sort. I'd be very interested in something that would enable me to make lots of electrical or optical connections to individual neurons in a way that doesn't trigger an immune response.

  • (Score: 1) by crutchy on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:06AM

    by crutchy (179) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @11:06AM (#1526) Homepage Journal

    ...would be proud ...and disgusted at the same time

    • (Score: 1) by CoolHand on Tuesday February 18 2014, @01:00PM

      by CoolHand (438) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @01:00PM (#1569) Journal

      When I saw the article, I myself, felt amazed... and scared.. at the same time... not too far off Michael's conjectured feelings.. :)

      --
      Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job-Douglas Adams
  • (Score: 1) by Freeman on Tuesday February 18 2014, @05:24PM

    by Freeman (732) on Tuesday February 18 2014, @05:24PM (#1722) Journal

    Tiny magnetic particles running around in your body...Sounds great...

    --
    Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"