One of the greatest challenges in targeted cancer therapy is achieving accurate delivery of the beneficial agent directly to the cancer cells you wish to affect. Researchers at the Institute for Integrative Nanoscience in Dresden, Germany are working on a novel solution to the problem. They are attempting to turn sperm cells into cancer treatment delivery agents.
The Germans were trying to build biobots, microscopic robots that could be controlled and directed from outside the body while surviving inside the body without damaging or being rejected by their host. After experimenting with numerous biologic materials, Discover Magazine recently reported that the researchers found a winner in sperm – specifically, the sperm from bulls (yes, the farm animal).
Strong and agile, modified sperm, called “spermbots” by the Germans, were able to deliver the propulsion the scientists desired. The ability to direct the sperm cells’ movement was achieved by exposing the sperm cells to a magnetic field in the laboratory and then using magnets to provide directional guidance. As explained in Discover Magazine, “It’s like a remote-control robot where the sperm start the engines and the researchers provide the navigation.”
While the research appears to have the greatest immediate potential for developing an in vivo, or inside the body, alternative to in vitro fertilization; the German scientists believe that human sperm cells could someday be used to deliver medicine and other beneficial agents directly to the body’s cells, potentially opening a new pathway for the delivery of advanced targeted cancer therapies. Even more boldly, they imagine a day when spermbots might be directed to “drill” into cancerous cells and actually cure cancer!