Vol.3, March 2015
Kazunori Kataoka, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Materials Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, and Center for Disease Biology and Integrative Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine
The University of Tokyo
‘Hospital within the Body’
The aim of our research at Kawasaki is to eradicate diseases based on the concept of a ‘hospital within the body’.
Our conceptual system would predict the potential onset of disease and heal parts of the body affected by disease.
This concept is based on nanotechnology.
The Kawasaki KING SKYFRONT is a base for ‘mono-tsukuri’, that is, making things. We want to utilize KING SKYFRONT’s strengths in making and fabricating things to produce innovative and novel medical technology for a healthy society.
We will inject ‘nano-machines’ into the body to act as the ‘hospital within the body’ and cure diseases. The nano-machines are made using nanotechnology and are similar in size to viruses. We functionalize the nano-machines to treat diseases as they move through the body. The nano-machines are covered or embedded with drugs and are able to self-assemble. This technology is already established. We want to use it to diagnose and cure diseases.
The mayor of Kawasaki used the phased ‘civic pride’ to describe his vision for the research institute we are constructing at the Kawasaki KING SKYFRONT to develop the nano-machines for medical applications. I was really moved by this phrase and want our research to the civic pride of Kawasaki City. Specifically, our nano-machines will be designed to treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease.
Cancer is a scary disease because it reoccurs and spreads from the site it originally started. So the issue becomes the effectiveness of nano-machines for the treatment of cancer. We want to clarify this with further experiments.
If we compare nano-machines with the development of automobiles then, initially cars required extensive driving skills and management. Then automatic radar systems stopped cars from going astray, and the final step will be fully autonomous, driverless cars. This is how I expect nano-machines to evolve as well.
Priority is the Brain
We want to fabricate nano-machines that can enter the blood stream from the brain. The blood vessels in the brain have high barriers that prevent things from entering. But we recently succeeded in attaching a type of ‘molecular barcode’ to the surface of nano-machines. We discovered that our nano-machines were able to bond to cells inside blood vessels and then move through the cells. Based on this technology we want to treat diseases such as Altzheimer’s disease by delivering antibodies and drugs inside the brain.
Nano-machines can be activated by irradiating them with light or ultrasound to switch on materials or drugs integrated into the nano-machines. So, initially the nano-machines are delivered to affected sites, then they are irradiated with external light, ultrasound or magnetic fields. In this way, the nano-machines are activated inside the body, and they only act to treat the immediate area surrounding them.
‘Hospital within the Body’ to Protect the body
Many people have watched the 1966 US movie Fantastic Voyage. Medical doctors shrink to microscopic sizes and are carried by a micro-submarine to diseased parts of the body to cure a person’s ailments. Our nano-machines will be able to do similar things. It will be pinpoint surgery inside the body, and enable the surgery without injuring the surface of the body.
The nano-machines will move around the body irrespective of the person be sick or healthy. The nano-machines will act immediately to initiate treatment if they detect abnormalities in the body. We also think that the nano-machines may be able to send such information about abnormalities to receivers and monitors outside of the body. The realization of this idea will indeed be the creation of the “hospital within the body”.
KING SKYFRONT Connecting to the World
On the one hand, one of the main characteristics of KING SKYFRONT is that it is very close to Haneda Airport. This is a huge advantage for internationalization. Soon, we want to send technology that is developed and commercialized at KING SKYFRONT to the world from Haneda Airport.
We also envisage putting drugs and other such things into the nano-machines. Hence, we could integrate drugs sent to us from overseas into our nano-machines, and then send them back via the airport.
International collaboration is also important. The close proximity of KING SKY FRONT with Haneda Airport is important for globalization of technology and internationalization of people. A direct link with Haneda is very important for the success of the projects being conducted at KING SKYFRONT.