SEJONG, Dec. 16 (Yonhap) -- A group of South Korean scientists has developed the world's first nanorobot that can detect and help treat cancer, the science ministry said Monday.
The team from the Chonnam National University used genetically modified bacteria to detect unique substances or proteins, such as the vascular endothelial growth factor, that are produced in excessive amounts when cancer cells are present, according to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, which partly funded the research.
The bacteria, then, pushes a robotic device, 3 micrometers in size, that automatically sprays anticancer drugs when it reaches a cancer cell.
"This research offers a new paradigm of overcoming previously limited ways to diagnose and treat cancer with a nanorobot that can actively move and even deliver anticancer drugs specifically to cancer cells," the ministry said in a press release.
"This is the world's first nanorobot for active medical treatment."
Lab tests have shown the nanorobot can detect only solid cancer, such as breast or colorectal cancer, but its developers said it can be further advanced to detect and treat various types of cancer in earlier stages.
The new technology and the nanorobot, named Bacteriobot, have been patented in dozens of countries, including the United States, Japan and all members of the European Union.
The research, titled a new paradigm for tumor theranostic methodology using a bacteria-based microrobot, has been published in the latest edition of Scientific Reports, an online journal published by the Nature Publishing Group.
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