Russian scientists close in on drug-delivering nanorobots

Artist rendering of nanorobots--Courtesy of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

Researchers at the Institute of General Physics at the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology said their advancement in biocomputing using nanoparticles is a step toward creating nanorobots. These are capable of delivering drugs in the form of molecular payloads, which the scientists compared to the creation of transistors--which advanced to eventually power computers.

Most studies in this area have focused on the performance of intracellular "logical operations" that form the basis of computing, but the teams said they have developed a method of enabling extracellular nanoparticles and microparticles to follow the boolean commands "and," "yes," "no" and "or."

Researchers accomplished this feat by designing the nanoparticles in such a way that the coating behaves differently when exposed to various signals, or inputs, at the particle/biomolecule interface. As a result, the team was able to create nanoparticles that targeted cells when two different criteria were met (presumably following the boolean operation "and"). Scientists were able to home in specifically on cancer cells.

By "input-induced disassembly" of the nanoparticles, logic-gating can be achieved. That means inputs (like the signal that the nanoparticle encounters via the particle/biomolecule interface) associated with a logical command can be mapped to outputs, or outcomes, on a decision tree.

The researchers say their study, appearing in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, is the first publication in a major scientific magazine in years about an experiment conducted by an exclusively Russian team.

- read the news release
- here's the study abstract