Little submarine robots attacking cancer cells? Not quite, but nanodevices have a future in cancer therapy. From Scientific American:
Carbon nanotubes–tiny straws of pure carbon–have many properties that
make them attractive for applications as varied as nanoelectronics and
nanofibers. Scientists are recruiting carbon nanotubes in the fight
against cancer, too. A report published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that when paired with a modified laser beam, the rods can act as tiny heaters to selectively destroy tumor cells.
"One of the longstanding problems in medicine is how to cure cancer
without harming normal body tissue," notes study co-author Hongjie Dai.
Cancer cells tend to be coated in folate receptors, whereas normal
cells are not. Thus, to ensure that the carbon nanotubes were attracted
only to diseased cells, the researchers coated them with folate
molecules. The team then shined a flashlight-size near-infrared laser
on aqueous solutions of both tumor and normal cells. Although harmless
to regular cells, the light heated the nanotubes to 70 degrees Celsius
within two minutes, killing the cancer cells they had invaded.