"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.'"
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.
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.
"...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.
While there are large numbers of tubbies in the world, there will always be a diabetes budget...
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.
How would a nanomachine be useful in cancer research? I can think of a few ways:
The key would be for the machine to recognize proteins
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.
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!"
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.
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.