Drug delivery nanorockets ricochet riotously

Dutch scientists successfully launched nanosized rockets that they envision eventually carrying drugs through the body to a vital target.

Yes, you're probably thinking this sounds like the Proteus vessel in "Fantastic Voyage," which microscopically explored a human brain. So did the Daily Mail, and Wired, for that matter, both of which made that exact same parallel in their coverage of this finding, so we won't go there. (You can, however, through links at the end of this story. There are some pretty futuristic illustrations, too.)

Credit researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands with the finding. According to the story, the team, led by Jan van Hest, built nanoparticles about 10 times smaller than a bacteria that assemble into tiny orbs, fueled by hydrogen peroxide. To build the nanorockets, they started with ball shaped containers known as polymersomes. Next, they incorporated other molecules into the construction and then linked them to functional enzymes. Peptides are on the outside. Platinum nanoparticles decompose the fuel into oxygen and water, which sends the vessel thrusting in a given direction.

Still, consider that this is incredibly early stage. And as the Daily Mail points out, there are plenty of kinks to work out. A major issue among them: hydrogen peroxide doesn't last forever. Researchers next have to figure out a way to engineer the nanorockets to self-refuel. And they have to do it with something other than hydrogen peroxide, which is fine for a proof-of-concept trial but problematic, and toxic, in humans. Also, how do you steer these things? The Daily Mail notes that that particular problem is also likely high on the researchers' list of things to address.

Details of the study are published in Nature Chemistry.

- read the Daily Mail story
- check out Wired's coverage and video demo
- consider the journal abstract