Nanorobots

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Conference Session # B3

Paper # 2211

University of Pittsburgh

Swanson School of Engineering

April 14, 2012

1


NANOROBOTS
: THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE



Nsor Ogar

(
nko5@pitt.edu)


Abstract


This

paper will describe and evaluate the
innovative technologies and methodology of nanomedicine.
This paper will first give an overview of the history,
development and concepts involved in nanomedicine,
explaining the potential for nanorobots to revolutioniz
e
modern medicine. The paper will then go into detail about
the structure and architecture of the nanorobots involved in
nanomedicine and explain how nanorobots can enable
significant new methodologies in the diagnoses, therapies
and minimally invasive sur
gery for cancer. The paper will
then art
iculate the direction of current

re
search in the
applications of nanorobots towards dentistry and diabetes
.
The paper will then conclude by

addressing the issue of
sustainability,
evaluating the usefulness of nanomed
icine
and its technologies to the engineering commu
nity and
society at large, and
discussing the ethical concerns
involved with the

development of this technology.


Key Words


Biochip,
Cancer, Nanomedicine, N
ano
robots,
Nubots
, Sustainability

P
OTENTIAL
O
F
N
ANOMEDICINE

Nanomedicine is arguably one of the more fascinating fields
of medicine today.

Nanomedicine is
the application of
nanotechnology to the prevention and treatment of disease in
the human body

[
1
]
. This evolving field

has the potential to
dramatically change medical science because it is aimed
to
tre
at diseases on
the
cellular
level [
2
]
.

Nearly all disease and
injury can be traced to the cellular level
. The medical
technology currently in use

does not provide a

means f
or
doctor to
treat specific cells
.

Most of the medical
processes
that are used affect

the whole body, leading to health issues
that can potentially be fatal.

For instance, s
urgery is an
invasive process t
hat can be lifesaving as well as damaging
.
In many c
ases, surgery can cause organs to rupture and
instigate other minor complications to the body.


Drugs
affect

the entire body rather than delivering medicine
directly where it is needed.

As a result, other problems
within the body develop.

In addition, c
hem
otherapy

is aimed
at cancerous cells yet it kills both healthy and cancerous
cells.

There are
some cases where cancer sometimes returns
even after chemotherapy has been

applied.


Without reservation
, m
any prospects
have been
brought up in regards to nanom
edicine

by scientists and
researchers
. It is believed that nanomedicine will be capable
of repairing organs by traveling to the organ itself and
regenerating tissue where it is needed. It is also believed that
the regeneration of limbs i
s possible through
nanom
edicine.
They are also many who
believe that nanorobots can clean
the air and

remove pollutants from the drinking water and
oceans. The immediate future of nanomedicine is full of
promise, but some attention must be paid to the potential
dangers of th
is technology before it is used in public.

Sustainability must also be taken into account since a
product that can harm either the environment or humans will
not bode well in society.

As I have shown, nanomedicine has
the capability to impact the field of
medicine in an immense
way.





H
ISTORY
O
F

N
ANOMEDICINE

Development
of nanomedicine has followed two prin
cipal
paths: the biological approach and the mechanical approach
.

These two paths were termed ‘wet nanotechnology’ and ‘dry
nanotechnology’

respective
ly

by Richard Smalley, a Physics
Professor from Rice University who won the Nobel Prize for
chemistry in 1996 along with Harold W. Kroto and Robert
F. Curl for the discovery of fullerene
, a molecule composed
entirely of carbon in the form of a hollow spher
e

[
3
]
.


The Biological Approach


The scientific tradition of biological nanomachines for
medical purposes began in 1964 when Robert Ettinger, an
early cryonics pioneer,

suggested that cellular
-
level or even
molecular
-
level repair might be developed for
lif
e extension

[
3
]
.

In 1972, Ettinger proposed using genetic engineering to
make microscopic biorobots. “Exis
t
ing
organisms

could be
modified to mak
e biologically
-
based programmable
biorobots for medical applications,”

pro
posed Ettinger.

In
1976, Thomas
Donaldson presented the first detailed list of
biotechnological techniques that appeared necessary to
achieve cell repair and might prove feasible
. For repair at the
level of the cell, Donaldson’s techniques include

the
following: t
he

ability to design enz
ymes to produce specific
repair functions

such a
s renaturing denatured proteins,
the
ability of s
pecially constructed bacteria or macrophag
es

to
be

able to replicate themselves,

t
he ability

to re
-
introduce
lost DNA or lost organelles such as
mitochondria

i
nto a cell
,
and the

ability to modify at
will

the developmental program
of a cell.


The Mechanical Approach

The concept of molecular nanotechnology was nearly
invented by Robert A. Heinlein, a science fiction author, in
1942

[
3
]
.

Heinlein suggested a proce
ss for manipulating
microscopic structures.

Heinlein envisioned the extensive
use of life
-
size teleoperator hands, called “waldoes,”



Nsor Ogar




2

complete with sensory feedback for full, remote
-
controlled
telepresence.

Without a doubt,
Eric Drexler made the most
contri
butions to nanomedicine from a mechanical
prospective.

In 1981, Drexler suggested the construction of
mechanically deterministic nanodevices using biological
parts; these devices could inspect cells at the molecular level
and also repair cellular tissues t
hat had been damaged during
cryonic suspension.

In 1982, Drexler described cell repair
machines even more clearly in the mechanical tradition, in a
popular publication. In 1983, Drexler began privately
circulating a draft technical paper entitled “Cell Rep
air
Machines” which investigated for the fir
st time, in some
detail, the capabilities of

an advanced mecha
nical
-
based
nanotechnology
. In 1986, Drexler published “Engines of
Creation,” a popular text with two chapters devoted to
discussions of cellular repa
ir machines. Drexler further
expounded upon the topic of cellular repair machines in
articles published in 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1989.

Drexler’s
articles inspired many chemists, computer scientists, and
engineers to focus on science at the nanoscale. For e
xample,
A.K. Dewdney reported an early nanomedical concept of an
artery
-
cleaning nanorobot in 19
88 that he credited to
Drexler.

To sum up, the contributions made by Robert
Heinlein, Eric Drexler, and A.K. Dewdney helped

make
nanomedicine more app
ealing to
the public, assisting its
inclusion into the field of medicine in the future.

N
ANOROBOTS

One of the most advanced forms of nanomedicine
is

nanorobots.
Nanorobots are microscopic devices measured
on the scale of nanometers. When nanorobots become fully
developed, they would wo
rk at the
cellular leve
l

to perform
tasks in the medical field

that were not possible

before

[
4
]
.
Before this technology comes to fruition
, researchers must
decide on how to design the
nanorobot and which materials

the nanorobot

sho
uld

consist of. This paper

will look into the
structure and design of nanorobots as well as

into

ways to
approach the making of nanorobots.


FIGURE
1

A

DESIGN OF A NANOROBO
T WITH

SENSORS
,

MOLECULAR SORTING RO
TORS
,

AND FINS

(3)



Structure and Design

The i
deal nanorobot consists of a transporting mechanism,
an internal processor and a fuel unit that enables it to

operate.

Either carbon or silicon

will be the princi
pal
element comprising most
of
the

nanorobot

structure
.

Because of

the fact that certain metals behave one way in
larger quantities and a different
way in microscopic
quantities, m
any experts believe that sil
icon will be the main
component
.

Silicon can withstand time, conduct electricity
on a consistent basis, and be fle
xible enough to be
manipulated in various ways,

making

it the ideal material to
use for the structure. However, Silicon is not biodegradable

[5
]
. It cannot be broken down to its natural element by itself,
so

researchers must find a way to recycle the mater
ial

in
order to maintain sustainability

of the environment
. If silicon
is not recycled, this natural resource

will be depleted
significantly, causing more damage to the environment since
society will need more of this resource for many products.

Car
bon is
the other element
being considered for
use in the design of nanorobots.

Carbon will be in the form
of diamond

because of its chemical stability
, lipophilicity,
and hydrophobicity

[
4
]
.
Under room temperature diamonds
do not react with any chemical reagents
including various
kinds of acid and alkali.

It only becomes unstable if it is
oxidized at high temperatures by some oxidants. Diamond is
also hydrophobic

and lipophilic
,
meaning that it repels water
and does not repel oil

[6]
. Since the body is mostly made

up
of water, a nanorobot made of diamond can easily travel
through the body without distractions.


The typical size of a
medical nanorobot will be at
least
3 micrometers as it is the maximum size that can be
permitted due to capillary passage requirement.

The main
difficulty arises around the fuel unit. Most conventional
forms of robotic propulsion cannot be shrunk to nanoscale
with the current technology

today. Some researchers are
thinking about
adding
a layer of radioactive particles to the
nanorobot’s
body. The radioactive particle
s will provide fuel
to the nanorobot by decaying
.

When the radioactive particles
decay, they release energy, which can be harnessed by the
nanorobots.

This method can be enlarged or reduced to any
scale and is renewable, rende
ring it a better option over other
methods since it can be sustained
. Despite the advantage that
radioactive particles have over other methods, it still has the
ability to injure the human body. With this knowledge,
researchers should consider whether radi
oactive particles are
actually safe and efficient.

Nubots

T
here are two

different ways to approach the making of
nanorobots
. The first approach is through
nubots. Nubot is
an abbreviation for ‘nucleic acid robots.’

Nubots are organic
molecular machines at
the nanoscale. DNA structure can
provide means to assemble 2D and 3D nanomechanical
devices. DNA based machines can be activated using small
molecules, proteins a
nd other molecules of DNA. These



Nsor Ogar




3

types of nanorobots will be created with cadnano, a
computer
aided design tool for the DNA origami method,
which lets the user manipulate DNA material into specific
shapes [
7
]
.


FIGURE 2

C
ELL
-
T
ARGETING
DNA

NANORO
BOTS BEARING ANTIBOD
Y
-
FRAGMENTS
[6]



Bacteria Based

This approach proposes
the use

of biological
microorganisms
, like the
bacterium

E. coli. Thus the model
uses a flagellum for propulsion purposes. The
uses of
electromagnetic fields are

normally applied to control the
motion of this kind of biological integrated device

[
4
]
.



P
OTENTIAL
A
PPLICATIONS
T
OWARDS
M
EDICINE


Diagnosis and Treatment of

Cancer

Warren Chan, a biomedical engineer at the University of
Toronto, is looking into quantum dots, which can possibly
improve cancer diagnosis.
Quantum dots, which are smaller
than a v
irus at
less than

100 nanometers in size, emit light
when their electrons are excited. The theory is that if a
cancer
-
seeking protein is attached to the dots and they are
injected into the body, they will accumulate in a tumor and
give off different colors

when exposed to light

as shown in
Figure 3

[
8
]
.


FIGURE 3

M
ULTICOLOR QUANTUM DO
T CAPABILITY IN LIVE

ANIMALS

(3)


Moreover, t
he abilities of gold nanoparticles have
been demonstrated in cancer treatment.
Gold nanoparticles
have

shown to have 600 times mor
e absorption in cancer
cells than normal human cells. This property of nanogold to
absorb and scatter light can help with the detection and
imaging of malignant cells. The ability of gold nanoparticles
to strongly bind with biological
molecules

has been ut
ilized
to target cancer tissues by tagging the nanoparticle with a
suitable antibody.

This antibody
-
nanogold conjugate is

used
for delivering drug molecules or ionizing radiation in the
form of radioactive nanogold

[
9
]
.





Applications
towards

Dentistry

Nanorobots can be used for preventive, restorative &
curative procedures. Some of the de
ntal applications that
nanorobot
s can be used for include esthetic dentistry, tooth
repositio
ning, and inducing of anesthesia.
This paper

will
talk specifically about t
hree dental applications: oral
hygiene, cavity

preparation and

restoration
, and tooth repair.


Nanorobots can be instilled into a mouthwash to
help maintain oral hygiene.

Once the mouthwash is put
inside one’s mouth, the nanorobots can identify and destroy
pathogenic bacteria. Further, the nanorobots would identify
food particles, plaque, or tartar, and lift them from teeth to
be rinsed away. Being suspended in liquid woul
d allow the
nanorobots to swim and reach surfaces that are beyond the
reach of toothbrush bristles or the fibers of floss.

The
nanor
o
bots could also be implanted into toothpaste to
perform calculus debridement, the removal of hardened
dental plaque.

As a r
esult, this procedure will prevent tooth
decay and bad breath

[
10
]
.

The next application is cavity preparation and
restoration. Multiple nanorobots working on the teeth in
unison may be used for cavity preparation and restoration of



Nsor Ogar




4

teeth.

The cavi
ty prepa
ration is
restricted to the
d
emin
eralized enamel and dentin, providing maximum
conservation of sound tooth structure.

Nanodental techniques involve many tissue
engineering procedures for tooth repair well as genetic
engineering and tissue regeneration proc
edures.

The
installation

of a biologically autologous whole replacement
tooth
, which includes

mineral and cellular components
,

will
lead to complete dentition replacement therapy, therefore

facilitating the regrowth of teeth

[
10
]
.


Diagnosis and Treatment
of Diabetes

Glucose carried through the blood

stream is important to
keep
the human metabolism working healthfully
, and its
correct level is an important

issue in the diagnosis and
treatment of diabetes. Intrinsically related to the glucose
molecules, the protein hSGLT3 has an important influence
in regulating extracellular glucose concentration. The
hSGLT3 molecule can serve to define the glucose levels o
f
diabetes patients. The most interesting a
spect of this protein
is that it

its serves as a sensor to identify glucose

[
4
]
.

The simulated nanorobot prototype model has
embedded Complementary Metal Oxide semiconductor
(CMOS) nanobioelectronics. It featu
res
a size of about 2
micro
meter
s
, which permits it to operate freely inside the
body.
There is no interference that

keeps the nanorobot from

detecting glucose levels in

the

blood stream. Even with the
immune system reaction inside the body, the nanorobot is
n
ot attacked by the white blood cells due

to

biocompatibility. For the glucose monitoring
,

the nanorobot
uses

an

embedded chemosensor that involves the modulation
of

the

hSGL
T3 protein
.

Through its onboard chemo
sensor,
the nanorobot can thus effectively det
ermine if the patient
needs to inject insulin or take any further action, s
uch as
prescribed medication
.

On the whole,
the medical
application of nanorobots towards cancer, dentistry, and
diabetes displays how the quality of life will improve. Th
e
nanorob
ots are designed to go directly to the source of the
problem and fix it inst
ead of affecting the whole body. As a
result, the lives of some people will not necessarily be
jeopardized because of an invasive process.


S
USTAINABILITY

Sustainability is the cap
acity to withstand. Sustainability
creates and maintains the conditions under which humans
and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit
fulfilling the social , economic and other requirements of
present and future generations

by reducing the con
sumption
of natural resources and promoting innovative green
business practices
.

Sustainability is important

because it will
ensure that society will continue to have water, materials,
and resources to protect human health and the environment.

Although n
anorobots are
very intriguing product
s

that have

the potential to change the l
andscape of medicine,

w
e need

to know w
hether the nanorobots’

impact on society will be
either positive or negative
and whether it is ethical
for

us to
utilize this technology

co
nsistently in the future. This paper

will now provide more details on how nanorobots impact the
environ
ment
and labor.

To begin with,

n
anopollution

is a
general
name for
all waste generated by

nanodevices

or during the
manufacturing process

[1
1
]
.

This kind

of waste may be very
dangerous because of its size. It can float in the air and
might easily penetrate animal

and
plant cells causing
unknown effects. Most human
-
made nanoparticles do not
appear in nature, so living organisms may not have

the

appropriate

means to deal with nanowaste

once it

infiltrate
s

the body
.

To properly assess the health hazards of
engineered nanoparticles
, the
life cycle of these particles
needs to be evaluated
, including their distribution,
potential
abuse, and disposal
. Assessing
the environment is reasonable
since nanoparticles present new effects on the environment

[1
1
]
. However, nanotechnology can also benefit the
environment.

Nanofiltration
,
which is

based

on the use of
membranes
with extremely small pores
,

is

suitable for a
me
chanical fi
ltration of
nanomaterials from different fluids
.
Furthermore, magnetic nano
particles offer an effective
method to remove heavy

metal

contaminants from waste
water. To conclude, there are numerous ways in which
nanopollution can

either harm or he
lp the env
ironment.




For the most part, p
eople who work in unskilled
labor jobs for a livelihood may become the first human
workers to be displaced by the constant use of
nanotech
nology in the
workplace.
L
ayoffs often affect the
jobs based around the
lowest technology level before
attacking jobs with the highest technology level possible.

It
has also been speculated that nanotechnology may give rise
to nanofactories which may have superior capabilities to
conventional factories due to their small carbo
n and physical
footprint on the global and regional environment. These
advances might shift the computerized workforce in an even
more complex direction, requiring skills in genetics,
nanotechnology, and
robotics.

In brief, nanotechnology

will
have a signi
ficant impact on labor since it can potentially
replace many of

the jobs people do for a living.

As a result,
the labor market will decrease and will force unskilled
workers to actually go to school and obtain a degree because
nanotechnology overtaking uns
killed labor jobs.





Ethical Issues

Sustainability can also apply to the quality of

life that people
live.

The quality of life refers an individual’
s total well
-
being. Many people are concerned with this issue because
nanorobots have the ability to impro
ve healthcare for
everyone, which means a higher life expectancy.
Some
people have stated that nanorobots can reverse the aging
process due to the fact that wrinkles, loss of bone
mass

and
age
-
related conditions are all treatable at the cellular level
[2].

This knowledge raises the issue

of the ethical aspects of
applying nanorobots

into the human body.

There is a need



Nsor Ogar




5

for society to know what issues will arise out of using
nanorobots.

This section of the paper delve deeper into four
main ethical issues: A
changing understanding of human
disease, the ethical question of enhancement versus therapy,
the risks and benefits of nanotechnologies in healthcare, and
privacy.

Future nanomedical diagnostics with an ultimate level
of sensitivity will enable doctors to
discover the slightest
abnormality in our bodies, raising the question

of
what
clinical relevance such information will
have

[
1
2
]
.
“Diagnostic

nanotechnologies eventually will provide the
ability to detect and characterize individual cells, subtle
molecular changes in DNA, or even minor changes in blood
chemistry


scenarios that will likely cause us to reconsider
what it means to be a ‘healthy
person’ versus a ‘person who
has a disease’” says
Raj Bawa, a professor at Northern
Virginia Community College
. “In a nanoworld, we might
have to reconsider how to diagnose someone who has, say,
cancer. Is the presence of a genetic mutation known to have
a

predisposition for causing cancer in a single cell a
diagnosis
? Or is it simply a risk
factor
? How many cells
from the body must

be of a cancerous nature for the cells

to
be defined as cancer? 1? 50? 1000?” Once diagnostic
technologies have reached this s
tage it will require
conceptualizing

understanding of disease.
T
he balance of
information processed and disseminated versus benefit to
society and individual health significant consideration for
the

ethics of nanotechnology
.

In contrast to therapy, nanomed
icine enhancement is
concerned with the creation of improvement of bodily parts
or functions that were absent or undamaged through
implan
table nanoscale medical devices
.
Even more


and
highly controversial


as
Robert
Freitas
, the author of the
multi
-
volu
me text
book

Nanomedicine
,

points out, "on a long
term perspective nanotechnology
contemplates
not

only the
creation of autonomous
nanomachines to be used inside the
human body but the enhancement and even transformation
of the human body and human identity

particularly in case
they were used to modify the human brain."

Some
critics
caution that the
idea of a vastly extended lifespan on the
basis of nanomedicine looks at least from the perspective of
today’s political and ec
onomic situation may not be what
the
people want

[1
2
]
. They argue that
these enhancement
scenarios offer a cynical perspective in view of what should
and could be done with the help of nanomedicine in order to
alleviate real human pain
.



N
anotechnology i
n general

is new and little
exper
imental data about unintended and adverse effects
exists. The lack of knowledge about how nanoparticles
might affect or interfere with the biochemical pathways and
processes of the human body is particularly troublesome.
Scientists are primarily concerned
with toxicity,
characterization and exposure pathways. Other than the
obvious potential risks to patients, there are other
toxicological risks associated with nanomedicine. Bawa
points out that, because long
-
term follow
-
up data regarding
nanomedicines do n
ot yet exist, it is important that patients
be informed that there may be long
-
term consequences for
using these drugs. “Although this is not altogether different
from the long
-
term risks associated with exposure to
chemotherapeutic or radiologic agents, i
t is an important risk
factor that must be disclosed to patients taking
nanomedicines or any kind of intervention involving
nanoparticles or nanomaterials.”

Future nanotechnology
-
enabled
diagnostic tools will
make possible the collection of an enormous am
ount of
individual cellular level surveillance data of the human body
which then is remotely transmitted to a medical database
server to be analyzed and monitored by diagnostic software

[1
2
]
. According

to

Bawa, if and when such technologies
become possible
, a key ethical question arises: Can the
health information infrastructure handle, collect, process,
and analyze real
-
time on
-
going health data? “With so few
health care institutions adopting electronic medical record
systems or health time periods, it is
of concern that ways are
being created

to

generate

massive amounts of health
information without a system to use it” he says. “Moreover,
ensuring privacy and confidentiality in such a system would
be of utmost importance: a system without adequate
safeguar
ds presents serious ethical problems.”



T
HE
F
UTURE

No matter how m
any years it will takes for nanorobots
to be incorporated into society
, nanomedicine will usher in a
new area in health care that will be highly accurate, less
painful, less toxic, and with

fewer side effects than their
current counterparts. Pharmaceuticals will be more effective
and less toxic, disease monitoring can be done on a specific
level, a
nd surgery will not be required. Only time will tell
when this technology is finally shown to t
he public and
whether society accepts how it is used.




R
EFERENCES


[1]

(2007,

May 30 ).

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[2]

R.
Kayne and L. Wynn.

"What Is Nanomedicine?"

WiseGeek
.

[Online]
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http://www.wisegeek.com/what
-
is
-
nanomedicine.htm


[
]

G. Foladori
, N.
Invernizzi,
and D. Maclurcan. "Nanotechnology's
Controversial Role for the Sout
h
."

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. [Online]
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http://sts.sagepub.com/content/13/1/123.full.pdf html

[
3
]

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.



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Capabilities
.”

ISBN 157059645X

[4]
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International Journal
of Pharma and Bio Sciences
.
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http://www.ijpbs.net/51.pdf

[5]

"What Nanobots Are Made Out Of."
How Nanorobots Are Made
.
[Online] Available:
http://nanogloss.com/nanobots/how
-
nanorobots
-
are
-
made/




Nsor Ogar




6

[6]

(2011,April 12). H.Wang. "Basic Properties of Diamond."
Diamond
Blade Select
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http://www.diamondbladeselect
.com/knowledge/basic
-
properties
-
of
-
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[
7
](2012, February 22). J.

Malone.
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-
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-
deliver
-
targetted
-
drugs

[
8
]
(2009, January 7). "Nanorobots to Fight Cancer, Diagnose Disease
-

Health
-

CBC News."

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-

Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids
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-
medicine.html

[
9
]
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A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank Arinzech
ukwu Ufondu for helping me
on the direction of the paper and for assisting me in
finding
the topic of this paper.