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Nanorobots: Radical Science in Clinical Trials by the 2020s; expert says
Dick Pelletier   Jun 16, 2012   Positive Futurist  

You enter the wellness center and tell the receptionist avatar that you’re here for an annual restoration, and though your real age is 110, you would like to be restored to the age of a 20-something. A nurse then injects billions of genome-specific ‘bots non-invasively through the skin; you’re now set for another year.

The above scenario may sound like something out of a sci-fi tale, but experts predict nanorobotics will one day turn this fantasy into reality. Nanotech pioneer Robert Freitas believes that as the technology matures, every adult’s appearance could be restored once a year to a biological age chosen by the individual. In a Futurist Magazine article, he describes how nanorobots will forever change our world.

Freitas has designed ‘bots smaller than red blood cells that can travel through the human body destroying harmful pathogens and repairing faulty DNA. His inventions would be constructed of carbon atoms, and powered by utilizing glucose or natural sugars and oxygen from the body.

Doctors would not only use nanorobots to correct problems like heart disease, cancer, or damages suffered from normal aging processes, but could also direct them to strengthen and enhance other parts of the body. These computer-guided creations would restore aging bones, muscles, eyesight, and teeth to a biologically perfect state. When finished, the ‘smart’ ‘bots would exit the body through urine.

Experts envision that these creations will be manufactured in home nanofactories using special nano-scale tools capable of forming them to specifications required for each job. The design, shape, size and type of atoms, molecules, and components used in their makeup would always be task-specific.

Will the drug giants fill a role in tomorrow’s nano-world? “Yes”, Freitas says. “Issues such as IP rights, quality, design, software, and government regulation should allow Big Pharma to retain a significant role in nano-machine manufacture, even in an era of widespread personal nanofactory use.”

In addition, drug companies could assume liability for errors, experts say. Patients need a legally responsible entity they can sue in case of mistakes or defective products. No one wants ‘robots gone wild’ roaming through their bodies. Raw materials and labor for construction would be nearly cost-free; and even though Big Pharma gets part of the action, nanorobots will still be a very affordable health tool.

Freitas offers an example of a medical nanorobot he designed that would act as a red blood cell. It consists of carbon atoms in a diamond pattern to create a spherical pressurized tank with “molecular sorting rotors,” which could grab and store oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules.

This ‘respirocyte,’ as he calls his creation, consists of 18-billion atoms and can hold 9-billion oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules, 200 times the capacity of human blood cells. The added capacity would allow a person to run at full speed for 15 minutes without taking a breath – no more huffing and puffing.

Other nanorobot creations include artificial white blood cells called microbivores, that seek and digest harmful bloodborne pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Even if a bacterium has acquired drug resistance to antibiotics, the microbivore would hunt it down and destroy it.

Microbivores would completely clear blood-borne infections in hours or less, much faster than the weeks or months needed for antibiotic-based cures. Other proposed applications will eliminate tumors, remove circulatory obstructions that cause heart attacks, and prevent brain damage in stroke victims.

Freitas mentions a procedure where ‘bots called ‘chromallocytes’ would seek out aging cells and make repairs, or replace the cell with a new younger version. Chromosome replacement therapy will not only repair aging damages; but would also eradicate any disease in the patient’s body that might cause death.

This remarkable technology promises huge advances in extending healthy lifespan, and is not limited to Freitas’ efforts. Other nanorobot research underway, include University of Southern California; Cornell University; Monash University; and Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal. It’s the dream of most future watchers, including this writer, that we will one day say goodbye to aging, hello to being forever young and healthy.
Freitas predicts nanobots could appear in clinical trials by as early as the 2020s. Comments welcome.

Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.


It never fails to amuse me when people feel a need to assure people that such medical nanobots “will leave your body”

Why? What purpose does that serve? Other than trying to lie to people to “sooth” their nerves with a “see, you will still be 100% natural” (snort), there is not one single reason for this scenario to occur. No need for an “annual reset” when active nanites could keep you from ever aging, repair damage done to the body as it occurs, enable superhuman enhancements without the need to “amputate” and install cybernetic replacements and basically render you immune to any disease.

Simply put, the assumption made by ANYONE that we will only have nanites in our bodies when a doctor is using them AND AT NO OTHER TIME, shows little more than a cognitive failure to accept the truth, that Doctors would be entirely unnecessary, checkups would be unnecessary, that all the trappings of modern medicine would simply cease to need to exist beyond some very limited trauma services, which could likely be automated, and the field of medical research science.

Additionally, NOT having nanites in your body 24/7 is extremely DANGEROUS. Without nanite defense systems, you’d be completely vulnerable to an engineered nanoplague. With such systems, your “enhanced immune system” could call upon vast storehouses of information to fight invading nanites, and render entire populations immune to further attacks in short order.

Basically, this is an example of a “Static Worldview”. Making a prediction in which nothing else is changed but the one single aspect being examined, when in reality the creation of medical nanites will RADICALLY alter how we do medicine, and indeed, eliminate the overwhelming majority of the medical profession.

It’s a nice recap of Freitas’ work, and I recognize that many of the examples are drawn straight from his “brief explanation” summaries, but I’ve criticized him for this too.

Hmm.. not sure?

Would seem like a good idea to continue with annual checkups, purging, and replenishment of new improved, upgraded nanobots?

This type of nano technology does/will make the human body ultimately “totally” reliant upon this, and one can imagine all types of catastrophic disasters with nanobots failures, including susceptibility to total immune failure and rapid age acceleration?

Guess I still hold too much faith in my present immune system and white cell immune memory?

Nanotech is already being implemented to attack MRSA and penetrate bacterium cell walls and deliver the fatal antibiotics dose.

But I see no problems of using bots to supersede and improve upon conventional drugs and medicines.

I just hope they can fight of prions.  There’s currently no cure for those.

@Christian, it should be feasible to design prion-degrading enzymes without full-on medical nanotechnology; this would be just like another very interesting drug you take with your tetanus shot.

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