In what used to be something only seen in science fiction movies, scientists have successfully used nanobots in a living animal for the first time in history. The research was performed by a group of scientists at the University of California, and was recently published in the journal ACS Nano. The project led by Professors Liangfang Zhang and Joseph Wang  involved having the tiny devices delivering nano-particles into the stomach lining of a mouse.

The science might sound pretty far-fetched, but it’s clearly becoming a reality. It works by creating machines that are made of polymer tubes covered in zinc, all together the length of the width of a human hair. Once these reach the stomach, the zinc reacts with the stomach acid to produce hydrogen gas that pushes the tub into the stomach lining where it releases medication.

One of the goals of nano-machines is to treat peptic ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders. There is still a lot of work that has to be done, especially when working with man-made machines working inside of a living organism. Up until this project, the only research done has involved laboratory cell samples – no living, breathing creature.

Aside from science fiction, this concept dates back to 1959 where physicist Richard Feynman gave a lecture called “There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” In his talk which he gave to the American Physical Society (APS), he explained “”Although it is a very wild idea, it would be interesting in surgery if you could swallow the surgeon.” He continued, “You put the mechanical surgeon inside the blood vessel and it goes into the heart and ‘looks’ around. It finds out which valve is the faulty one and takes a little knife and slices it out.”

Would you want tiny robots working diligently inside your body to help cure diseases and disorders, or is that too much of a scary thought? There’s a good reason that scientists are starting slow with this – this isn’t a project to be taken lightly where humans should be tested on so soon.

Photo Credit: MFer Photography