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Penn State researchers first to control synthetic nanomotors in living cells

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Tom Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics at Penn State University, colleagues at Penn State, and Lamar Mair of Weinberg Medical Physics in Maryland reported the first successful control of synthetic nanomotors in living cells in the Feb. 10, 2014, issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

The microscopic nanomotors were directed and controlled using ultrasonic waves and magnetic force. The researchers found that they were capable of directing any number of nanomotors to perform any number of tasks in a single cell or multiple cells at the same time.

This research using gold-ruthenium nanomotors has overcome the toxic chemical effects of the first nanomotors produced in 2004.

This development promises to make disease repair at a cellular level possible. Even repair or replacement of defective or dysfunctional parts of a cell or a given set of cells is potentially possible.

This development may be the initiation of a real cure for cancer instead of a treatment. Nanomotors were tested by the researchers using an immortal line of human cervical cancer cells and were found to be able to destroy the contents of the cancer cells and rupture the cancer cell membrane. Both actions would render cancer cells inoperative.

The researchers describe the development as almost "Fantastic Voyage." For those too young to remember the movie, the premise was that a team of scientists and a submarine were shrunk to microscopic size and inserted into a man to repair an inoperable brain problem.


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