It's also pretty cool. The nanobots injected into the roaches are made from so-called DNA origami that's natural and easy to program. They're also fitted with iron oxide nanoparticle "locks" that open and release drugs when exposed to an EEG-controlled electromagnet. When EEG-wearing users increase their brain energy (by doing math), it powers up the magnet, which in turn activates the nanobots. The team can measure the fluorescence inside the bugs to confirm that it's working.DNA Origami (Karolinska Institute)
The EEG could be programmed to detect psychotic episodes, ADHD or other brain issues, according to the team. The drug release could also be tightly controlled using molecules that only attach to certain cell types. For instance, the medication could be released only into cancer cells if attached to the right kind of molecule.
As with all things nanobot, the research isn't ready for human trials. There's no EEG portable enough to wear all the time and still practical, for one. And even though we've written about drug-releasing nanobots many, many times, they've never been tried in humans. The team that performed the cockroach research may have an edge, though. One of the scientists, Ido Bachelet from Bar-Ilan University, plans to trial nanobot cancer treatment on a terminally ill patient as early as this year.