New Column: Do Yourself a Favor

Career Idea #2: Go Small with Nanobots, NaNots...or Smaller!

32 AI-powered jobs in robotics that are going mainstream. Get one!

The second in our newly-launched series that examines the future of 32 AI-powered jobs in robotics that are going mainstream.
Do Yourself a Favor. Take a look, spend some time, dig around at this as a career for you.

A Nano-Combo Just Getting Started!

Laser-Guided Robots Push into Bloodstream
New research, published August 26 in Nature, shows that it is possible to build legs into robots mere microns in length. When powered by lasers, these tiny machines can move, and some day, they may save lives in operating rooms or even, possibly, on the battlefield.

This project, funded in part by the Army Research Office and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, demonstrated that, adapting principles from origami, nano-scale legged robots could be printed and then directed.

“While these robots are primitive in their function – they’re not very fast, they don’t have a lot of computational capability – the innovations that we made to make them compatible with standard microchip fabrication open the door to making these microscopic robots smart, fast and mass producible,” Itai Cohen, professor of physics at Cornell University, told the Cornell Chronicle. “This is really just the first shot across the bow that, hey, we can do electronic integration on a tiny robot.”

This latest project adds legs to already-demonstrated nano-scale printed sensors. So long as the data collected can help direct the robot where to go, or inform the humans directing the robots about what the robots are perceiving, the machines could be used to work within bodies, on problems smaller than humans can get to with existing tools.

For the military, funding research like this serves two essential functions. The first is that the military is, by its nature, deeply integrated as a hospital system, tasked with recovering and healing people who experience a whole host of injuries. Having an additional tool ready to go in operating rooms, even if it is a decade or more from now, justifies the expenditure.

There is also the possibility that, given the small size of the robots, they could possibly be included in battlefield first aid. Imagine if a bandage came embedded with robots that could stitch close wounds from the inside when directed by the light. It is possible that the future may even see a variety of specialty robots, carried and applied as immediate treatments to a range of combat injuries.

For now, the robots are an innovation in manufacturing, with a promise of medical success after that. In the future, we could see medics rush into action, making sure the first course of treatment is increasing the amount of robots in the patient’s blood.

Many thanks to Forbes for “Nano Robots Walk Inside Blood When Hit With Lasers”

Subtractive Nanoparticles Are About To Transform How We Treat Disease
Lou Hawthorne is the founder of a nanomedicine company called NaNotics.

His company builds subtractive nanoparticles called NaNots that are designed to remove specific disease causing molecules from the human body. NaNots don’t target diseased cells or stimulate immune cells. They modulate cell signals by depleting specific signal molecules or their inhibitors from blood.

Before he built the first NaNot, Lou Hawthorne asked Dr. Heiko Rieger – one of the world’s foremost experts on mathematical modeling of the tumor microenvironment – how long it would take post injection for NaNots to deplete a clinically significant quantity of soluble tumor-generated immune inhibitors.

He assumed the answer would be some number of hours. Instead, Dr. Rieger responded, “very fast – probably less than a minute.” Hawthorne figured that this had to be an error so he asked to see the math. Dr. Rieger showed him the math, but even after seeing the math, Hawthorne was still skeptical.

When Hawthorne’s engineering team, led by John Dodgson, PhD, built the first NaNot prototypes, they realized that Dr. Rieger was exactly right. NaNots started depleting the target within seconds and finished in minutes.

“NaNots are the most innovative use of a nanoparticle I’ve seen in my career.”

Keith Flaherty, MD, Director of Clinical Research, Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital

NaNots are biochemically programmed to deplete specific targets that drive different diseases. They are injected into the human body like a drug and can potentially treat any disease enabled by soluble molecules, such as cancer, autoimmune disease, and infectious diseases like COVID-19. In a mouse model of triple negative breast cancer, NaNots depleted more than 90% of their targets in less than five minutes and blocked metastasis.

Many thanks to Margaretta Colangelo, Co-founder & Managing Director at Deep Knowledge Group for her article: “Subtractive Nanoparticles Are About To Transform How We Treat Disease”