Editorial Feature

Application of Nanorobotics (Nanobots)

Nanorobotics describes the technology of producing machines or robots at the nanoscale. 'Nanobot' is an informal term to refer to engineered nano machines. Though currently hypothetical, nanorobots will advance many fields through the manipulation of nano-sized objects.

The field of medicine is expected to receive the largest improvement from this technology. This is because nanotechnology provides the advantage of transporting large amounts of nanorobots in a single injection. Furthermore, designs that include a communication interface will allow adaptations to the programming and function of nanobots already in the body. This will improve disease monitoring and treatment whilst reducing the need for invasive procedures.

Nanorobotic Applications in the Field of Hematology

Current research is developing nanorobotic applications for the field of hematology. This ranges from developing artificial methods of transporting oxygen in the body after major trauma to forming improved clotting capabilities in the event of a dangerous hemorrhage.

Respirocytes are hypothetical nanobots engineered to function as artificial red blood cells. In emergencies where a patient stops breathing and blood circulation ceases, respirocytes could be injected into the blood stream to transport respiratory gases until the patient is stabilized.

Current proposals suggest respirocytes would be able to supply 200 times more respiratory gas molecules than natural red blood cells of the same volume. Clottocytes are another type of nanobot which function as artificial platelets for halting bleeds.

Clottocytes would mimic the natural platelet ability to accumulate at the bleed, in order to form a barrier, by unfurling a fiber mesh which would trap blood cells when the nanobot arrives at the site of the injury. The clotting ability of one injection of clottocytes would be 10,000 times more effective that an equal volume of natural platelets.

Nanorobotics Applications for Cancer Detection and Therapy

As cancer survival rates improve with early detection, nanorobots designed with enhanced detection abilities will be able to increase the speed of a cancer diagnosis and therefore enhance the prognosis of the disease. Nanobots with embedded chemical sensors can be designed to detect tumor cells in the body. Proposed designs currently include the employment of integrated communication technology, where two-way signaling is produced. This means that nanobots will respond to acoustic signals and receive programming instructions via external sound waves along with transmitting data they have accumulated.

A simple reporting interface could be produced through strategically positioned nanobots in the body which are able to log information supplied by active nanobots traveling through the blood stream. Instructions could be adapted in vivo to provide active targeting for monitoring or healing.

Nanorobots with chemical sensors can also be utilized for therapy. Through specific programming to detect different levels of cancer biomarkers such as e-cadherins and beta-catenin, therapy can be provided in both primary and metastatic phases of cancer. Nanobots have the advantage of producing targeted treatment. Current cancer treatments have severe side effects caused by the destruction of healthy cells. Targeted treatment can be formed by designing nanorobots with chemotactic sensors on their surface which correspond to specific antigens on the cancer cells.

Nanorobotics Applications for Biohazard Defense

Nanorobots will also have useful applications for biohazard defense, including improving the response to epidemic disease. Nanobots with protein based biosensors will be able to transmit real-time information in areas where public infrastructure is limited and laboratory analysis is unavailable. This is particularly applicable for biomedical monitoring of areas devastated by epidemic disease as well as in remote or war torn countries during humanitarian missions.

Nanorobotics may also reduce contamination and provide successful screening for quarantine. In the event of an influenza epidemic for example, increased concentrations of alpha-NAGA enzyme in the blood stream could be used as a biomarker for the influenza infection. The increased concentration would trigger the nanorobot prognostic protocol which sends electromagnetic back propagated signals to portable technology such as a mobile phone. The information would then be retransmitted via the telecommunication system providing information on the location of the infected person, increasing the speed of contamination quarantine.

Image Credit:

Volodymyr Horbovyy/ Shutterstock.com

Sources:

  1. Yamaan Saadeh, B.S. & Dinesh Vyas, M.D. 2014. Nanorobotic Applications in Medicine: Current Proposals and Designs, American Journal of Robotic Surgery, 1, pp. 4-11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562685/
  2. Saha, M. 2009. Nanomedicine: promising tiny machine for the healthcare in future – a review, Oman Medical Journal, 24, pp. 242-247. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3243873/
  3. Saxena, S. et al. 2015. Design, architecture and application of nanorobotics in oncology, Indian Journal of Cancer, 52, pp. 236-241. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26853420
  4. Cavalcanti, A. et al. 2008. Nanorobotic hardware architecture for medical defense, Sensors, 5, pp. 2932-2958. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3675524/

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