Nanomachines cancer cells
Nanomachines could be a non-invasive way to kill cancer cellsTOUR GROUP/RICE UNIVERSITY

Scientists at Durham University have made quite a breakthrough by creating nanomachines that can drill into cancer cells and kill them in a matter of a few minutes.

The nanomachines, built out of a chain of atoms, are driven by light and can kill cells by permeating through the membrane, according to a report in The Telegraph.

Once triggered by light, these machines spin at a whopping 3 million times per second, generating sufficient power to break their way through cell linings.

Essentially, they serve as tiny spinning molecules which destroy the cells. In fact, these molecules are so small that even 50,000 of them would still be as wide as a single strand of human hair.

Each nanomachine is engineered to be sensitive to a protein found on a specific type of cell, something that prompted scientists at Durham University to target cancerous prostate cells with these artificially-created particles.

Their findings revealed that the machines took nearly one to three minutes to drill through the outer membrane of a human prostate cancer cell. Several videos revealed that it killed the diseased cell instantly after making its way into it.

Durham University's Dr Robert Pal elaborated by saying, "We are moving towards realising our ambition to be able to use light-activated nanomachines to target cancer cells such as those in breast tumours and skin melanomas, including those that are resistant to existing chemotherapy."

The development of nanomachines is still at a nascent stage, with experiments underway on microorganisms and small fish.

However, it is not hard to see the potential of this technology, which could lead to advanced methods of non-invasive treatment – either by precisely targeting cells with medicines or by actually killing the cancer cells.