It is a peep into the future, of how medicine is going to change the lives of people. Researchers at Penn State University have developed Nanomotors, rocket-shaped metal projectiles powered by sound and it will explore the insides of human cells.
The nano sized, rocket like projectiles break opens the border of a cell wall and starts its work. The projectile much akin to an egg beater starts to whip up the cell’s entrails, or puncture its membranous wall with a battering-ram like motion.
The description may look like a scene from any James Cameron’s science flick but that is exactly what the scientists at the Penn State University and Weinberg Medical Physics in Maryland are envisaging. Scientists have developed microscopic metallic motors known as nanomotors and then injected them into living human cells. Their exploits have been published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition. This process has been achieved for the first time in the world and can have immense potential in medical science in the future.
Tom Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics at Penn State said “Our first-generation motors required toxic fuels and they would not move in biological fluid, so we couldn’t study them in human cells. That limitation was a serious problem.”
This limitation was soon overcome when scientists discovered that the nanomotors could be powered by ultrasonic waves, which make them spin. This did away effectively with the need for the toxic fuel anymore and the motors were ready to be used in living cells.
The nanomotors measures 3000 nanometers wide. This makes it possible to be stacked one atop another and make a pile of 33 nanomotors. The sonic frequencies could be used to spin the projectiles while magnetic fields could be employed to steer the motors around. Different motors could be controlled independently of the others, making them able to do very precise work.
Tom Mallouk and his team designed the motors. The researchers introduced these motors into human cervical-cancer cells called HeLa cells. The cells readily ingested the machines and the projectiles went to work propelling themselves in all direction using ultrasonic waves. The projectiles were steered using magnets. The projectiles rammed into the cancerous cells and punched holes in the cancerous cell wall leading to the lysis of the cells.
The research is in the early stage and further research is being carried out to find a better use of these nanomotors like taking over a cancerous cells’ function and bring it back to normal functioning or it could be used as a miniature surgical team which conducts surgeries on the cells and inject tiny quantities of drugs directly into the targeted cells in a very precise manner.