Chinese researchers have developed robotic worms that can move through blood vessels to reach patients’ brains and directly destroy the tumors, avoiding the serious side effects of conventional treatments.
Brain tumors are rare diseases that are responsible for 2% of all cancer deaths. Almost 700,000 Americans are currently living with brain tumors. Patients are usually treated with radiotherapy or chemotherapy, treatments with very serious side effects. In some cases, surgery is an option. However, the surgeon cannot remove healthy tissue around the tumor to prevent possible relapse. Also removing too much tissue can lead to irreversible neurological consequences. However, new work by Chinese scientists may soon revolutionize treatment in this area. According to a January 20 article in the South China Morning Post, researchers were able to create robotic worms that can travel through blood vessels to reach patients’ brains and target tumors directly. The results of their research were published earlier this month in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
These “robot worms” measure from 1 to 3 mm and work without batteries, because they use an external magnetic field system. They have made the heads of these worms from a magnet consisting of an alloy of neodymium, iron and boron and the tails from a special composite material. To activate the robot worm in the brain, the patient will have to stand still, placed in a magnetic resonance machine to create the corresponding magnetic field. Once inside the body, the worm will be able to bring drugs to the target area, avoiding the side effects associated with conventional treatments. Once it has accomplished its mission, it will leave the patient’s body on its own.