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Medicine Science Technology

Tiny Motors Controlled Inside Human Cells 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the much-easier-than-controlling-giant-motors-inside-human-cells dept.
cold fjord tips a BBC report about the successful installation of microscopic motors into living, human cells. The motors were propelled inside the cell by pulses of ultrasound and steered with magnetism. "At low ultrasonic power, the nanomotors had little effect on these cells. But when the power was increased, the nanomotors surged into action, zooming around and bumping into organelles — structures within the cell that perform specific functions. The nanomotors could be used as 'egg beaters' to essentially homogenise the cell's contents, or act as battering rams to puncture the cell membrane." Once finer control is gained over the motors, they could be used to for extremely small scale surgery, or to deliver drugs to very precise locations. Professor Tom Mallouk of Penn State said multiple motors can move independently of one another, which is important if we try to use them as a cancer treatment. "You don't want a whole mass of them going in one direction."
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Tiny Motors Controlled Inside Human Cells

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  • Now we just need equally diminutive compute resources to attach to them and some self-replicating abilities, then we can start our own Collective.
  • How are they motors? the derive all of their motive power from energy outside the cell ( ultrasonics and magenetic field). There are more like selective energy receivers.

    Oh. The original paper calls them, "Very active gold nanorods...". That makes much more [honest] sense.

    • How are they not motors, just because they're wirelessly powered?

  • This is old news. Raquel Welsh did this years ago in the Fantastic Voyage.

  • by Gavin Scott (15916) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @05:49PM (#46223093)

    A couple things...

    The environment inside a cell is nothing like a lake or ocean that you can go merrily boating through. The cell is packed with molecules jostling each other around and it's random thermal motion that rules that world. Overcoming that with a motor and expecting to maneuver around to specific places just does not seem like it is going to be effective.

    Nature is actually quite fond of electric motors (you have lots of them in every cell in the form of ATP Synthase, and they're used by bacteria to drive flagella etc.) but has apparently not found them useful for maneuvering around inside a cell.

    G.

     

    • by zebadee (551743)

      Nature is actually quite fond of electric motors (you have lots of them in every cell in the form of ATP Synthase, and they're used by bacteria to drive flagella etc.) but has apparently not found them useful for maneuvering around inside a cell.

      G.

      Apart from from myosin 1 an ATP powered 'motor' that moves intra cellular vesicles around within almost every cell!

      Oh and they use ATP so are ATP hydrolysers not synthases

    • Under an electron microscope a cell is like a swath of very strange terrain with weirder inhabitants.

    • The environment inside a cell is nothing like a lake or ocean that you can go merrily boating through. The cell is packed with molecules jostling each other around and it's random thermal motion that rules that world. Overcoming that with a motor and expecting to maneuver around to specific places just does not seem like it is going to be effective

      It has been proposed that at least some motor proteins use that brownian motion as the way to move around in a cellular environment [nih.gov]. Using a force already necessarily present to move stuff is more efficient than generating a magnetic field, that's likely the reason it's preferred to magnetic movement or electric.

      Furthermore, I'd argue that the inside of a cell IS in an important way like a lake or ocean: at such small scales, momentum is negligible, same as it is in a cellular environment.

  • It sounds like this sort of research could be the eventual answer to "curing" cancer. As has been discussed extensively here on /., it's looking like there's really no cure but that it can perhaps eventually be treated so effectively that we'll think of it more as the common cold than the ultimate horror it is today.
  • Our ultrasonic powered grey goo overlords.

  • this could be used to cure cancer.
  • Sounds like Neal Stephenson's Cookie-Cutters are a perfect application!

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