GKT Conference 2014: Dr. Ido Bachelet Kills Cancer With Nanorobots
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Injecting nanorobots into your blood cells to detect cancer cells sounds like a sci-fi movie — and that’s precisely what Bachelet does


Dr. Ido Bachelet giving keynote speech at Geektime Conference 2014.

As Yaniv Feldman, Geektime‘s Editor-in-Chief, said in his introduction to Dr. Ido Bachelet, “Injecting nanorobots into your blood cells to detect cancer cells sounds like a sci-fi movie” — and that’s precisely what Bachelet does.

An assistant professor at Bar Ilan University’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Nano-Center, Bachelet explained how technology can adopt solutions from living organisms to address various problems, including heart attacks, viruses, cancer, and data storage. Specifically, his DNA nano-robots, which he first developed while doing his post doctoral fellowship at MIT and Harvard Medical School, insert DNA coding into bacteria to perform numerous tasks. 

Big things come in small packages

His talk, titled “Exploring the bionic design space,” began with a simple but powerful example: “Why when we get a wound can our body heal?” Living organisms have learned to deal with problems for millions of years that we still can’t approach today. His work bioengineers the DNA behind these natural treatments to perform various medical tasks, such as detecting viruses and heart attacks, and killing cancerous tumors.

A cosmetic tech application they developed, called “Remakeup,” emits light when a body sweats. Beyond this being useful for self-conscious sweaters on sweltering, summer days, it can also sense when someone’s about to have a heart attack.

Most impressively, Bachelet’s team built “nanobots” that can detect 12 types of tumors and kill them without doing anything to the animal. He described how injected nano-robots scan tissue for tumor cells and then disconnect them. This process only takes a few seconds, killing the tumorous and potentially cancerous cells. These nanobots can also decide which combination of drugs to activate to treat infected cells.

So far, they have tested the bots on animals, and will be starting a human trial within a year. He also recently launched a company that will manufacture these bots.

Interestingly, his technology also has applications in the worlds of data storage and what he calls “4D technology,” which is one step beyond 3D printing: His team is mimicking the building blocks of viruses, which can assemble on their own, to create products that can reassemble. 

According to Bachelet, DNA can hold around 5,000 times more data than your typical storage solution, such as a USB. His team colorfully scanned the Mona Lisa, converted those bits into DNA, and put it in the cell of a mouse. He explained that mice can protect its data much better than other organisms.

He is also using “DNA Origami” to use DNA coding to fold into 2D and 3D shapes. As he explained to Geektime after the presentation, with 4D printing, “you have to make the bricks only once, and then you can make whatever you want. You don’t need to use material and print more objects, and can build objects from the same building blocks.”

The current technology, however, is still very difficult to administer because there is no known algorithm that can turn building blocks that can self assemble. He expects that in 2-5 years, though, the technology will be fully operational.

To learn more about how Bachelet’s nanorobots can disrupt the field of medicine, watch his TED talk at Israel’s TEDMED.

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Laura Rosbrow-Telem

About Laura Rosbrow-Telem

I am a social entrepreneurship enthusiast: This is what happens when a former social worker becomes a tech journalist. I mostly write about startups, technology, peace and justice issues, cultural topics, and personal stuff. Before Geektime, I was an editor at the Jerusalem Post and Mic.

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  • Michael Bakunin

    Will there be a video of Dr. Bachelet’s talk posted?

    • Hi Michael, The videos will be posted here later this week.


      • sid

        been a week since you posted that comment and there is still no video, can you post it please

  • Luke


    can you update when the video is going to be available? If you could provide a date and a landing page where the video is going to be posted I will share the details on Forekast.com, which is a service that promotes globally available content.

    It is win win because it will bring traffic to your page too.

    Thanks, Luke