Researchers are equipping sperm with tiny iron suits to turn them into cancer-fighting robots. Wait, what?

SeekerPublished: July 11, 2018
Published: July 11, 2018

Gynecological cancers are really hard to treat. And with over one million women diagnosed every year, researchers are looking for some kind of drug delivery method that can survive in the harsh environments of the vagina, cervix, and uterus. It also needs to be able to quickly propel itself towards a tumor, without diluting the drug itself.

One group of researchers realized they didn't have to look very far to find such a thing because living, breathing mammals naturally make something that thrives in that environment... Sperm.

Sperm are evolutionarily programmed to travel through the reproductive system and now scientists are using this to their advantage. They're testing bionic bovine sperm to deliver cancer-treating drugs directly to tumors.

So, how does this method work? First, researchers take the bovine sperm and soak them in doxorubicin, which is a type of chemotherapy drug. Then, a 3D-printed iron harness is microscopically fitted onto the sperm. Sperm themselves are only like .002 inches, so imagine how tiny that harness would be! The armored sperm would then be inserted into the patient's reproductive system. Once the sperm are inside, the researchers use magnets to guide the iron-clad sperm to the drug drop-off point, a tumor. Then, flexible mechanic arms from the suit reach out and grab onto the target cell. The sperm then swim into the cancer cell and deliver the Doxorubicin to the problem area. At that point, the drug fights to the death, hoping to overpower and destroy the cancer cell.



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