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August 28, 2016 5:21 am

Israeli Researchers Invent Mind-Controlled DNA Nanobots for Potential Treatment of Brain Disorders From Epilepsy to Depression

avatar by Lea Speyer

An MRI of the human brain. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

An MRI of the human brain. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Taking a cue from science fiction, Israeli researchers have invented mind-controlled nanobots that have the potential to treat “challenging” brain disorders, the UK’s Daily Mail reported on Friday.

According to the report, researchers from Bar-Ilan University and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya created the first-of-their-kind microscopic DNA robots to treat disorders such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and depression. 

The shell-like structure of the nanobots was formed using DNA origami — which creates non-arbitrary two- and three-dimensional shapes — with a hollow inside. Drugs could potentially be placed inside the nanobot, the report said, and locked with particles of iron oxide.

Using electromagnets, doctors would be able to control the release of the drug over a specific time-span, heightening its effects. Even more remarkable, researchers said, was that the release process can now also be controlled using human brainwaves.

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Now, for the first time, scientists have successfully used thought to get the nanobots to release drugs while inside a living creature after placing them in cockroaches, the report said. 

The cockroaches were injected with nanobots containing fluorescent protein. Using a computer algorithm the researchers created to detect when a human brain was under strain while doing mental arithmetic, the computer could trigger an electromagnet to unlock the nanobots injected in the cockroaches when specific brain activity was spotted. Scientists were able to track the rate of release.

According to the researchers, the cockroach experiment has vast significance for treating humans who suffer from brain disorders.

Writing in the journal Public Library of Science One, they stated, “This technology enables the online switching of bioactive molecules on and off in response to a subject’s cognitive state, with potential implications to therapeutic control in disorders such as schizophrenia, depression and attention deficits, which are among the most challenging conditions to diagnose and treat.”

The nanobot technology is just one of the latest scientific medical advancement to emerge from Israel. As reported by The Algemeiner, scientists from Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with the German Cancer Research Center, recently discovered a dramatic “breakthrough” in skin-cancer research.  

Researchers uncovered how melanoma — which, according to the international Skin Cancer Foundation, kills one person every 52 minutes — spreads through the body, and they believe they have potentially found a way to stop this process.

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