Jan. 5 - South Korean scientists say they have developed the world's first nanorobot that can selectively target and help treat cancer. The robot is guided through the body by genetically engineered bacteria to a tumor where it releases its cargo of cancer fighting drugs. Sharon Reich reports.
South Korean scientists say it will soon be possible to treat cancer with nanorobots as a more efficient, less harmful alternative to chemotherapy. They have genetically modified non-toxic salmonella bacteria to deliver microscopic capsules filled with drugs, directly to cancer tumors. The bacteria are drawn to the tumors by the chemicals secreted by cancer cells. Once the bacteria arrive, the capsules release their drugs, attacking the tumor while leaving healthy cells alone. Lead researcher Park Jong-oh from Chonnam National University, says the system works on mouse tumors, and he's hopeful it will work in humans too. (SOUNDBITE) PARK JONG-OH, DIRECTOR, ROBOT RESEARCH INITIATIVE OF CHONNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY SAYING: "First of all, the main feature of Bacteriobot is that the robot has a sensing function to diagnose the cancer, and it's attacking the cancer itself as it uses the bacteria's brain while moving toward the tumor region with its flagella." At this stage, the bacteriorobot can detect only solid cancers where tumors form like breast or colorectal cancer. But Park believes with a little more time, the bots will be capable of detecting and treating other types as well. And he says, the tiny robots could make cancer treatment easier on patients - eliminating the adverse side-effects of chemotherapy like nausea, hair loss and anemia. (SOUNDBITE) PARK JONG-OH, DIRECTOR, ROBOT RESEARCH INITIATIVE OF CHONNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY SAYING: "When it comes to the conventional anti-cancer treatments, once you take it, there are a lot of parts of the internal organs that can be washed out. That's a treatment, but it can also hurt those healthy cells inside. But our medical nanorobot, named "Bacteriobot", has very high efficiency as an anti-cancer treatment by selectively attacking cancer cells. In this regard, we have introduced a new paradigm in treating cancer, and I think the technology will further invigorate anti-cancer treatment." The new technology has already been patented in the U.S, Japan and Europe, but has not yet been approved for use on humans