An international team of scientists has developed tiny motorized molecules that can drill holes in cells membranes when stimulated by light. The nanomachines could be useful for drug delivery or directly killing cancer cells.
The nanomotors are paddle-like chains of atoms, which spin up to 2–3 million times a second when supplied with energy in the form of ultraviolet light. The team created several types of nanomotors that can home in on different cell types.
“We thought it might be possible to attach these nanomachines to the cell membrane and then turn them on to see what happened,” said James Tour, a researcher at Rice University who was one of the leads of the study. The team discovered that the nanomotors can be designed to tunnel through a cell membrane to deliver drugs, or can cause disruption in the membrane, killing the cell.
“These nanomachines are so small that we could park 50,000 of them across the diameter of a human hair, yet they have the targeting and actuating components combined in that diminutive package to make molecular machines a reality for treating disease,” said Tour.
The researchers hope that it will be possible to activate future versions of the motors using near-infrared light or radio frequencies, which would make the technique more suitable for use in animals, and eventually patients. “The researchers are already proceeding with experiments in microorganisms and small fish to explore the efficacy in-vivo,” said Tour. “The hope is to move this swiftly to rodents to test the efficacy of nanomachines for a wide range of medicinal therapies.”
Here’s a Rice University video with the researchers behind the new nanomachines talking about their science:
Study in Nature: Molecular machines open cell membranes…
Via: Rice University…