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Molecular Nanomachines Can Destroy Tissue or Kill Multicellular Eukaryotes

Gunasekera, Richard S.; Galbadage, Thushara; Ayala-Orozco, Ciceron; Liu, Dongdong; García-López, Victor; Troutman, Brian E.; Tour, Josiah J.; Pal, Robert; Krishnan, Sunil; Cirillo, Jeffrey D.; Tour, James M.

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Richard S. Gunasekera

Thushara Galbadage

Ciceron Ayala-Orozco

Dongdong Liu

Victor García-López

Brian E. Troutman

Josiah J. Tour

Sunil Krishnan

Jeffrey D. Cirillo

James M. Tour


Light-activated molecular nanomachines (MNMs) can be used to drill holes into prokaryotic (bacterial) cell walls and the membrane of eukaryotic cells, including mammalian cancer cells, by their fast rotational movement, leading to cell death. We examined how these MNMs function in multicellular organisms and investigated their use for treatment and eradication of specific diseases by causing damage to certain tissues and small organisms. Three model eukaryotic species, Caenorhabditis elegans, Daphnia pulex, and Mus musculus (mouse), were evaluated. These organisms were exposed to light-activated fast-rotating MNMs and their physiological and pathological changes were studied in detail. Slow rotating MNMs were used to control for the effects of rotation rate. We demonstrate that fast-rotating MNMs caused depigmentation and 70% mortality in C. elegans while reducing the movement as well as heart rate and causing tissue damage in Daphnia. Topically applied light-activated MNMs on mouse skin caused ulceration and microlesions in the epithelial tissue, allowing MNMs to localize into deeper epidermal tissue. Overall, this study shows that the nanomechanical action of light-activated MNMs is effective against multicellular organisms, disrupting cell membranes and damaging tissue in vivo. Customized MNMs that target specific tissues for therapy combined with spatial and temporal control could have broad clinical applications in a variety of benign and malignant disease states including treatment of cancer, parasites, bacteria, and diseased tissues.


Gunasekera, R. S., Galbadage, T., Ayala-Orozco, C., Liu, D., García-López, V., Troutman, B. E., …Tour, J. M. (2020). Molecular Nanomachines Can Destroy Tissue or Kill Multicellular Eukaryotes. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, 12(12), 13657-13670.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 24, 2020
Online Publication Date Feb 24, 2020
Publication Date Mar 25, 2020
Deposit Date Apr 10, 2020
Publicly Available Date Apr 11, 2020
Journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Print ISSN 1944-8244
Electronic ISSN 1944-8252
Publisher American Chemical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 12
Pages 13657-13670


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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article published under an ACS AuthorChoice License, which permits<br /> copying and redistribution of the article or any adaptations for non-commercial purposes.

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