Ido Bachelet and Shawn Douglas have been working on DNA nanobots for three years. The wider field of DNA nanotechnology has been in existence since the eighties. In those three years Bachelet has now got to the stage of trialing the technology on a patient with leukemia with only six months to live.
The patient will receive an injection of DNA nanobots that are designed to target and destroy the leukemia cells while causing hardly any damage to healthy tissue. This is done by the nanobots being designed to open and deploy their cargo only when attached to specific cells. Leaving healthy cells alone.
Ned Seeman is the pioneering scientist in this field who first conceived of bending strands of DNA into geometric shapes at a campus pub over thirty years ago. To make the DNA nanostructures the scientists link short DNA strands to points along longer strands like pieces of tape or staples and bend it into form. When they have been designed the synthetic DNA strands are made to spec.
In an efficiency increasing process scientists mix up the DNA. Then heat the solution and as it cools. All the different tiny shapes self assemble. Assisted by new software, engineered to predict and model how the DNA will fold.
Bachelet and his team class the technology as robots, as the DNA strands carry out a task. Such as delivering a payload of medicine to a cancer. The nanobots are made of organic, biocompatible material. With Bachelets team still having to devise a way to get around the body’s immune system. As otherwise after a while the body removes them from itself.
Bachelets’ team has successfully tested the process in lab cultures and on animals and released papers in both Science and Nature. We should remember though that we are not cultures or animals. We are seven billion strong in number and therefore there could be adverse reactions to the use of such technology to treat disease in many of us.
Bachelet does not just limit the DNA nanobots to treat the sick and ill. He see’s a time when you will go for a yearly check up and be injected with the technology to stay healthy. What if you are not on the chosen list. Or are deemed to not be worthy of saving due to some difference of political or religious belief.
Who will have the power to decide. Like they do now with the NHS, just who is able to receive such a treatment. Fall out of favour and you could be left with a compromised immune system, that marks you out as someone not allowed to become a parent. Or partake in any number of social activity’s as well as education and employment.