A Step Toward Creating Medical Nanobots


Canadian researchers have created self propelled "nanobots" by coupling live, swimming bacteria to nano-sized beads. As Technology Review explains

A team led by École Polytechnique de Montréal computer engineering professor Sylvain Martel … is the first to show that such hybrids can be steered through the body using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

To do this, Martel used bacteria that naturally contain magnetic particles. In nature, these particles help the bacteria navigate toward deeper water, away from oxygen. "Those nanoparticles form a chain a bit like a magnetic compass needle," says Martel. But by changing the surrounding magnetic field using an extended set-up coupled to an MRI machine, Martel and his colleagues were able to make the bacteria propel themselves in any direction they wanted.

The bacteria swim using tiny corkscrewlike tails, or flagella, and these particular bacteria are faster and stronger than most, says Martel. What's more, they are just two microns in diameter–small enough to fit through the smallest blood vessels in the human body. The team treated the polymer beads roughly 150 nanometers in size with antibodies so that the bacteria would attach to them. Ultimately, the researchers plan to modify the beads so that they also carry cancer-killing drugs.


This far from the goal of self-directed nanobots with on-board computing as outlined by nano-medicine visionaries like Robert Freitas, but it's a start. (See above illustration.) 

NEXT: Lords of Undiscipline

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  1. Any chance I can replace all of blood with this? Have it deliver oxygen and clean out apoptosis at the same time?
    Oh, but if I get an erection lasting more than four hours…

  2. will these nanobots help me with my mortgage?

  3. Bring it on! I need my my arterial walls scraped and resurfaced. And if you could do something about the various growths, that would be great.


  5. A Deepness in the Sky: MRI directed, tailored mind control virus.

  6. Urkobold: I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for the animated Fantastic Voyage crew


    Which means you’ll hear constantly Ted Knight’s dramatic narration in your head.

  7. Jeff P: Perhaps you need a sapphire vasculoid? Probably would fix erectile dysfunction too.


  9. Very, very cool and promising. Danke Ron Bailey.

  10. Somehow I see all of this playing out badly. Nanobots mutate and begin to grow into trillions of mechanical cockroaches taking over the world until… wait for it… the Ex-Terminator!

    Yeah, I know. Needs work.

  11. Nanobots will become a Constitutional right.

    It’s not “fair” for some to be able to get their bodies fixed by nanobots and not others.

  12. Nanobots will become a Constitutional right.

    It’s not “fair” for some to be able to get their bodies fixed by nanobots and not others.

    It could go either way, Gilbert. Either a national entitlement program, or a national prohibition.

  13. Well his royal highness and Constitutional scholar Barak the 1st has already instructed us that healthcare is a “right” (even though that is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution), so I guess nanobots go along as a package deal with that.

  14. Gotta love science. Good to see some advancements in this field.

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