Several years ago, some medical researchers predicted nanomachines would instantly zap cancers and other internal ailments. At the time, the idea seemed far-fetched, at best.
That’s because nanomachines, sometimes called “nanites,” are measured in millionths-of-a-millimeter. The mighty microscopic mites can be either mechanical or electromechanical.
In theory, armies of nanomachines could be put into a patient’s body to attack diseases on a cellular level.
Well this week, researchers in the United Kingdom and at Rice University in Houston, Texas, revealed they have made real progress in turning theory into reality.
Their work shows how tiny spinning molecules governed by light pulses can kill cancer cells in seconds.
It’s the beginning of non-invasive surgery. And it’s going to be a huge investment opportunity.
It really does seem like science fiction.
Scientists have been trying to mobilize molecular structures for a long time. They strung together molecules in the shape of cars and submarines.
The goal was to develop enough momentum to push through the natural currents in the human body and eventually penetrate cells.
James Tour — professor of chemistry, computer science, material science and nanotechnology at Rice (busy man!) — believes there has been a breakthrough.
He and the team in the UK have been able to build molecular machines that spin at a rate of 2 million to 3 million revolutions per second. That’s fast enough to burrow through cell walls and blast the cells to smithereens.
In animal tests, the machines have been able to annihilate cancers and other tumors in seconds.
They are powerful, tiny and utilitarian. Tour says 50,000 nanomachines can fit across the diameter of a human hair. And in the near future, he expects they will be able to deliver drugs with pinpoint accuracy.
It’s like the 1966 sci-fi flick “Fantastic Voyage,” except there’s no super-shrunken submarine with a super-shrunken crew. And, there’s no 1960s kitsch or drama.
Instead, there are pre-programmed micro-mini-machines. At Rice, the nanites remain dormant and harmless until they are activated by light, reports The Telegraph. This means they are perfect for treating breast tumors, skin melanomas and cancers that are especially resistant to chemotherapy.
“It’s going to be a whole new way to treat patients,” said Tour in a YouTube video promoting the research.
For investors, it’s a wake-up call.
One of the most amazing aspects of this era is how developments are happening exponentially.
A big part of this involves the merging of information technology, cloud computing and data analytics.
If researchers can imagine it, they now have the tools to make it a reality.
For investors, opportunity lurks among software companies that create data-analytic solutions tailored to biotechnology. Some of these have already begun to move.
Other pharmaceutical companies have built extensive nanotechnology patent libraries. As the science matures, this intellectual property will be very valuable, perhaps exponentially so.
In the interim, my team has been scouring industry research papers, looking for vehicles to ride this fantastic voyage of non-invasive surgery.
One company we’re looking at right now is Mazor Robotics (MZOR) of Israel. Mazor is a worldwide provider of precision robots for brain and spinal surgery. The company has also begun investigating noninvasive surgical procedures.