An article by Robert A. Freitas Jr. ("Nanomedicine: robots in the bloodstream") appeared in the October-December 2001 issue of Pathways, a quarterly journal published by Novartis, a major pharmaceutical company. In his article, Freitas, the author of Nanomedicine, reports on recent work on artificial biological nanomotors, nanotweezers, and dendrimers, and features descriptions and illustrations of respirocytes, clottocytes and microbivores, which are medical nanorobot concepts proposed by Freitas. He writes: "In just a few decades physicians could be sending tiny machines into our bodies to diagnose and cure disease. These nanodevices will be able to repair tissues, clean blood vessels and airways, transform our physiological capabilities, and even potentially counteract the aging process."
Freitas concludes: "Although nanotechnology is in its infancy, researchers are steadily making major breakthroughs. If we can learn to harness and precisely control the ability to manipulate molecules, then many aspects of our lives will change forever. In particular, the ability to carry out medical procedures at the molecular level will revolutionize medical practice. The next few decades will be very interesting indeed."
Pathways has a circulation of 20,000 and is sent to health care professionals in 53 countries around the world, so publication of the article represents a small but significant step into the mainstream for the concept of nanorobotic medicine.
More information on the specific medical nanorobots proposed by Freitas can be found in the technical articles that have appeared on the Foresight Nanomedicine web pages or in the IMM Reports that appear as part of his column on nanomedicine in the Foresight Update newsletter:
- Respirocytes: A Mechanical Artificial Red Cell (1998)
- Clottocytes: Artificial Mechanical Platelets (June 2000)
- Microbivores: Artificial Mechanical Phagocytes (April 2001). A more lengthy technical discussion appears as "Microbivores: Artificial Mechanical Phagocytes using Digest and Discharge Protocol" (March 2001) on the Zyvex Corp. website.