from the digest-and-discharge dept.
In a recent technical paper, Robert A. Freitas Jr., author of Nanomedicine and a research scientist at Zyvex, describes an artificial mechanical phagocyte called a microbivore — the nanorobotic equivalent of a major class of natural blood cells — the white cells. Major antimicrobial defenses include circulating white cells capable of phagocytosis (engulfing and digesting other cells).
In his paper, Freitas presents a theoretical nanorobot scaling study for artificial mechanical phagocytes of microscopic size, called "microbivores," whose primary function is to destroy microbiological pathogens found in the human bloodstream using a "digest and discharge protocol". Freitas concludes microbivores would be up to 1000 times faster-acting than either natural or antibiotic-assisted biological phagocytic defenses, and about 80 times more efficient as phagocytic agents than macrophages, the white blood cells that are the primary cell-digesting agents in humans. He also notes: "Besides intravenous bacterial scavenging, microbivores or related devices may also be used to help clear respiratory, urinary, or cerebrospinal bacterial infections; eliminate bacterial toxemias and biofilms; eradicate viral, fungal, and parasitic infections; disinfect surfaces, foodstuffs, or organic samples; and help clean up biohazards and toxic chemicals."
A brief summary of the paper was published by the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing in Foresight Update #44. For much, much more information on the potential medical applications of advanced nanotechnology, see the Nanomedicine pages on the Foresight website.