Researchers from the UK’s Durham University and the US’s Rice and North Carolina State universities have detailed a type of molecule that can kill off cancer cells by drilling directly into them. This drilling action is performed using rotors that spin between 2 and 3 million times a second, boring through the membrane of cells to bring about cellular death. The entire drilling action is made possible via ultraviolet light.
Researchers describe these motorized molecules as nanomachines that are composed of a single cell. Ultraviolet light activates the nanomachines, which then set to work destroying the cancer cells. In one test described by Durham University, these motorized molecules were able to kill off prostate cancer cells within three minutes of starting.
Unlike existing cancer treatments, the process is described as non-invasive; it is also much faster and doesn’t come with the negative side effects associated with things like chemo and radiation. Potential unforeseen issues aside for a moment, the researchers explain that nanomachines like this could possibly be a fast way to treat certain types of cancers in the future, including breast cancer tumors and melanomas on the skin.
While some cancers are resistant to existing treatments like chemo, they’d have little defense against nanomachines that target them specifically and bore directly through their membrane. Researchers explain that these destructive motorized molecules can be set to target a specific type of cell, leaving other healthy cells untouched.
Furthermore, the nanomachines can make their way to the target cells and remain on their surface, lying dormant until ultraviolet light is used to activate them. Radio frequencies and other things could be used as alternative triggers in the future, though a lot of work remains. This breakthrough isn’t a viable cancer treatment option at the moment, but could be a standard practice at some point in the future.
SOURCE: Durham University