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Viruses: Nature's Nanobots

by Ty Mc 11 months ago in future

A fun fact about how viruses can be turned into the technology of tomorrow!

Viruses: Nature's Nanobots
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Most people, especially due to this current pandemic, probably have a lot of hatred to give to viruses. Honestly, I cannot blame them. Viruses cause diseases and like tiny microscopic parasites, they tend to take a lot from their victims without providing anything in return. They can cause death and serious injury to pretty much all animals on this planet and they can replicate much faster than most disease-causing creatures on this planet, making them harder to deal with. Honestly, most people would never look at viruses and see them as useful or helpful in any way, shape, or form … and honestly, it is hard to disagree at first glance. However, viruses can actually serve a useful purpose when it comes to an emerging field of modern technology and help make a difficult task much easier. Today’s most harmful viruses could, one day, become mankind’s most helpful nanobots and assist us in our daily lives!

Nanotechnology is an emerging science that is slowly gaining popularity in the modern world. As this field grows, people are working towards different methods for practically manufacturing nanobots. Some scientific minds are attempting to use specialized 3D printing to ‘print’ robots at the nanoscale. Others are attempting to utilize biochips or tiny synthetic molecular motors to make basic nanomachines. However, some are trying to use methods that use natural pre-existing creatures to produce nanobots so you don’t have to create some completely from scratch. Thus, we have researchers like Eric Poeschla of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota taking natural-occurring viruses and turning them into nanobots that can be used for proper research.

The main type of virus that is used in this process is generally the retrovirus. This is a type of virus that inserts a copy of its RNA into the DNA of a cell that it wants to infect to change how that cell behaves or as Oxford English Dictionary puts it, “Any of a group of RNA viruses which insert a DNA copy of their genome into the host cell in order to replicate”. These viruses are incredibly tiny and usually are only about 100 nanometers in diameter. And, like other viruses, they are able to replicate and create copies of themselves using cells. Many retroviruses can cause serious diseases in human beings, mammals, and birds. In fact, the primary cause of the disease AIDS in human beings is two retroviruses called HIV-1 and HIV-2. Despite this, retroviruses are incredibly useful in molecular biology and soon, they will be useful when it comes to the field of nanorobotics.

Virus-based nanobots are currently being utilized in the medical field for retroviral gene therapy. With this, you can use virus ‘nanobots’ to get rid of cellular diseases by changing the DNA of diseased cells or delivering nanomedicine to the affected regions of the human body. These nanobots for gene therapy can be retroviruses. However, the process has used other kinds of viruses to create vectors for treating infected cells. The herpes simplex viruses, for example, have been turned into nanobots that can treat the bad DNA of misbehaving cells, turning a virus that usually does nothing but cause STDs and cold sores into a useful medical tool.

It is fun to tell certain people about virus-based nanobots, especially during a pandemic where a virus has turned many of our lives upside-down. It is interesting to think that someday, the same virus responsible for this pandemic could be turned into a device from science-fiction that can help prevent the next pandemic and other dangerous diseases. All it will take is some more research, work, and hope for the sciences of tomorrow...


Ty Mc


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