30 August 2016

Telepathically controlled nanorobots

DNA origami allowed to "treat" cockroaches with mathematical thoughts

Oleg Lischuk, N+1

Israeli scientists have developed DNA nanorobots that allow you to control the delivery of drugs with the power of thought. During the experiment, the brain activity of human volunteers successfully released a fluorescent drug into the cockroaches' body. The technique is designed to help patients with mental illness. The results of the work are published in the journal PLOS One (Arnon et al., Thought-Controlled Nanoscale Robots in a Living Host).

Currently, there are a number of experimental and practical technologies that allow drugs to be delivered directly to their target without affecting the rest of the body. Releasing the drug exactly at the time it is needed is a more difficult task, and significant progress in this direction has not yet been achieved.

To solve this problem, the staff of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan created nanorobots using DNA origami. This technique allows you to create three-dimensional containers that can be filled with any drug. On the surface, they carry antibodies to recognize target cell receptors. Scientists have closed the nanorobots with a lock of complementary sequences of nucleotides with iron oxide particles. These particles open and close the lock under the influence of an external magnetic field. In turn, the magnetic field is activated by the SLACC software algorithm, trained to respond to a certain type of brain activity, which is recorded using an electroencephalogram (EEG).

In the course of testing the efficiency of the technique, scientists trained the algorithm to respond to brain activity that occurs when solving arithmetic problems. Then they introduced nanorobots with a fluorescent substance targeting hemolymph cells to discoid cockroaches Blaberus discoidalis and placed the insects in a spiral generating a magnetic field. This spiral was activated by an algorithm that processed signals from EEG sensors mounted on people's heads. When the volunteers started doing arithmetic calculations in their minds, the spiral generated a magnetic field that opened the locks of the nanorobots. Subsequent analysis of the hemolymph showed that thought-controlled nanorobots successfully delivered the drug to the cells.

Magnetic lock device and robot model (figure from the article in PLOS One)

The researchers note that the technology is still in the early stages of development, and the described experiment served only as a confirmation of the concept. According to them, when preparing devices for clinical use, it will be possible to train an algorithm to recognize brain activity indicating the onset of a pathological condition, for example, an acute attack of schizophrenia. At the same time, nanorobots will release a dose of an antipsychotic drug into the brain at the right moment. A portable magnetic field generator, according to scientists, can serve as a smartwatch. It is also necessary to modify the wireless EEG sensor, reducing it to the size of a hearing aid.

The technique was originally designed to help patients with schizophrenia, depression, hyperactivity disorder and other intractable mental illnesses. According to the developer Shaker Arnon, the scope of its application can be wider, since the algorithm can be trained to respond to almost any stimuli, including any combination of thoughts that allows you to allocate a certain dose of the drug according to need.

"Imagine that you can take an exact amount of alcohol to keep yourself tipsy, but not get drunk. It's a bit silly, but one day it may happen," Arnon explained.

The existing experimental and clinical methods of targeted drug delivery are based on the use of liposomes, nanomycelles, polymer microspheres and other structures, for example, magnetic "nanocovres". So far, they are not all devoid of disadvantages that limit their use. Technologies are constantly being improved: nanoconstructions are masked from the immune system, taught to penetrate into the brain and subjected to other modifications. It was also proposed to use biological objects, such as modified diatoms or bacteria sensitive to the magnetic field and oxygen levels, for drug delivery. In addition, tablets have been created that can be configured to release the drug in accordance with any intake scheme.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru  30.08.2016

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