Project Reference: MM4L13 

Multi-agent systems to treat cancer – towards nanorobotics 

Co-Supervisor 1: Frederik Mallmann, Informatics
Field of Expertise: Bioinformatics; Computational Modelling 

Co-Supervisor 2: Heba Sailem, Institute of Pharmaceutical Science
Field of Expertise: In Vitro Modelling; Computational Modelling; Bioinformatics; Translational Medicine


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Envision a scenario where nanobots travel through the human body, reaching a tumour and deploying their medicinal cargo to eliminate malignant cells while avoiding any unintentional damage. However, before we can successfully employ nanobots to combat cancer, we must surmount various practical and theoretical hurdles. Even for this highly specific application, a multitude of questions needs addressing: How do the nanobots locate the tumour cells? Can they assist each other? Is it safe for them to release the drug when they are 70% certain that the targeted cells are tumorous? Must all nanobots agree before taking action? What happens if some of the nanobots from the multitude malfunction? Considering the large numbers of nanobots involved, how many are likely to malfunction? Is there a risk of a collective, erroneous drug release? Given the critical nature of drug delivery within the human body, we need assurances that extend beyond heuristic predictions. It would be imprudent to introduce nanobots into a human body based solely on their successful simulations and animal model results, without having a comprehensive theoretical understanding of their function. 


The primary objective of this project is to develop theoretical assurances that facilitate consensus within noisy and harsh environments. Other crucial aspects that need exploration include improving the precision with which nanorobots locate tumours, and enhancing the mechanisms that attract other nanorobots to the target site. Right now, the work on nanorobotics is still its infancy happens on scales that are close to the micro scale than to the nano scale. In addition, initially, we will look at very simple agents. For this reason the research topic is on self-propelling particles rather than “nano robots” – however, the ultimate goal is to lay the foundation for nano robots. Much of the initial work will be based on the following paper: Throughout the course of this PhD project, we will utilize an extensive range of methods based on mathematical reasoning. This project is truly interdisciplinary, fostering significant collaboration with biologists, chemists, and engineers. As for the prerequisites, a robust mathematical and biological background is necessary. The work carried out will be theoretical and simulation based – without wet lab work. In addition, nanobots can be useful for targeted treatment as tumours can exhibit high heterogeneity. Your work will consider different attractants within the tumours based on microscopic images from Sailem group. Ultimately, this would allow targeting different region of tumour with most optimal treatment based on their molecular characteristics.