Nanomachines drill through cancer cells and kill them


Originally published at:


Heinlein would be stoked


That is freaking cool. Science mother fuckers! It rules.


Now all the old troubles will soon be at an end
And all the new ones will begin when we send the signal
To the newborn citizenship
Of the micronations
Sleeper cells awaken, now this is your time


When triggered, however, the motors rapidly drilled through the membranes.
I really like science’y stuff.


Stephenson had something like this in The Diamond Age, too.


The future of war is terrifying.


“They’re activated by ultraviolet light”

So . . . they inject you with some nanobots, then you bend over for the black-light endoscopy?


Please, God, make this work with Neurofibromas some day. Soonish!


Just one vulnerability in the software that tells them which cells to drill and which not, and… Who needs terminators when you could unleash some of these on humanity?

I shudder to think of what would happen if they had built in wifi. Goodbye internet of things, hello internet of murderbots.


A kind thought for K Eric Drexler on this news…ironic Rice, the academic home of his harsh critic the late Richard Smalley, is involved.


Since they’re powered by ultraviolet light, those afflicted would be obliged to stay indoors and only come out at night. No dramatic potential there at all…

But seriously, without self-replication they’d hardly be any more dangerous than any other poison, despite being much more difficult to produce and distribute. And anything with built-in wifi, considering current technology, would probably be too bulky to qualify as a “nanomachine” anymore and thus be of greatly diminished utility.


It sounds like a variation of a different treatment being developed using radio waves to kill cancer cells I heard about.

The idea was to have nanomachines attach themselves to cancer cells and that would be their only goal. Then, with an application of radio waves that are harmless to humans but can heat up certain metals that you would make your nanomachines out of, you could target only cancer cells for destruction without causing illness to healthy cells.


Cool idea, rotten graphics. They couldn’t get a summer undergrad to produce an animation showing how the darn thing worked? That would be cool.

I admit I watched it without the sound on . . .

Knew a couple of grad students who were quite proud of having gone there – their diplomas were proudly framed on the wall. I asked if they were printed on rice paper, and the guy, puzzled, just said “I don’t think so.”


I suspect that it would actually drop in to existing practices pretty neatly; given both the variety of cancer treatments that involve targeted does of slightly higher energy radiation; and the general popularity of ‘keyhole’ endoscopic operations. UV-rated optical fiber is a bit exotic compared to the normal IR-to-visible data stuff; but very much available; so targeted delivery of suitably punchy UV to even fairly deeply buried tissue should be doable with modest trauma; and apparently these nanites can deliver a nice selective kill without having to turn up the power to the point where it’s just ionizing radiation doing what it does best.


But he wrote science on a glass surface at 0:40! What could be more sciency than that?


This is the hard part of any of these types of things. Ten years ago, I worked on a project where we coated steel nanoparticles with an antigen binder, then an antigen. These things were supposed to find the cancer cells, bind the antibody, and then once stuck, we would induce heat with paramagnetic resonance, thereby killing the cell. The problem is cancer cells are fucking crafty, and always found ways to shed our particles. Also had an issue with how much dose to give, and then what happened to the free floating unbound particles. Wait? Wait too long and the cancer cells react and shed the particles. Don’t wait long enough and the free floaters or ones attached to or too near the non-cancer cells heat up and damage healthy tissue. Many issues with these types of therapies. They have promise. They need tons and tons of work.


Selectivity is the ever-present problem. Also with chemo & everything else. Need a nanite that is activated by a substance or force that does not react with any other tissues. That’s why we were using EPR. But it was still so difficult for many other reasons.


Oh definitely. If the nanites are no so selective as one hopes, you end up being a lot closer to just an expensive and exotic mechanism for producing the effects of a radioactive seed implant or reasonably focused beam.

My point was merely that getting some UV on target should be doable, for most tissue, without especially horrific damage in getting there; or the need for the fundamentally unusual surgical apparatus.

If that isn’t actually enough; you have a whole different problem; but activating UV-reactive nanites even internally is not the hard part. Making that solve your problem is the hard part.


My concern is how they target the right cells specifically. Can they be sure the surface features they’re targeting are specific only to tumor cells?