- Researchers create miniature robots that could one day help deliver drugs to certain parts of the body
- The design is inspired by bacteria and sperm cells and takes advantage of certain features, including swimming long distances and going against the flow
- It has cavities on its back and air bubbles are trapped in each cavity when submerged in solution
- When an ultrasound transducer is aimed at the robot, the air bubble generates a streaming flow and propels it
- Robot ‘looks like an insect crossed from a rocket ship’, experts say
Researchers have designed miniature robots that are inspired by cells and powered by ultrasound that may one day navigate the human body and help deliver drugs to parts of it.
These ‘rocket vessels’, described by Cornell University scientists, have a design that is inspired by both bacteria and sperm cells.
The robots, which can navigate through the human body, are remotely controlled and can take advantage of some characteristics of sperm and bacterial cells, including the fact that bacteria can swim 10 times their body length And sperm can go against the flow.
Study co-author Mingming Wu, a professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell, said: ‘We can make airplanes better than birds these days. Statement.
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Researchers have created miniature robots (pictured) that are inspired by cells and powered by ultrasound that may one day navigate the human body and help deliver drugs to parts of it.
‘But there are many situations on the smallest scale that nature is doing much better than us. For example, bacteria have evolved over billions of years to perfect the way they work.
The design is inspired by bacteria and sperm cells and takes advantage of certain features, including swimming long distances and going against the flow
Wu continued: ‘It got us wondering if we could actually engineer something similar. If you can send the drug to a target area like cancer cells, you won’t have as many side effects.’
To build the robots, experts designed and 3D printed them to begin with, but they needed to be able to power them, given that they might not have batteries.
When an ultrasound transducer is aimed at the robot, the air bubble generates a streaming current and propels it
Enter ultrasound waves, a technology that has been recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.
‘The bacteria and sperm basically consume organic matter in the surrounding fluid, and that’s enough to power them,’ Wu said.
‘But it’s hard to engineer robots, because if they carry batteries, it’s too heavy for them to move.’
It has cavities on its back and air bubbles are trapped in each cavity when submerged in solution
After six months of brainstorming, the researchers created a triangular robotic swimmer that ‘looks like an insect with a rocket ship.’
It has cavities on its back and when it is submerged in a solution or liquid, a small air bubble is trapped in each cavity.
When an ultrasound transducer is aimed at the robot, the air bubble generates a streaming flow (or vortex) and propels the robot.
The next step for the researchers is to make robots biocompatible for navigating blood cells.
The cell-sized robots also need to be biodegradable, highlighting that a significant number of them need to move into a person’s body to accomplish their mission.
“For drug delivery, you can have a bunch of micro-robotic swimmers, and if one fails during the trip, it’s not a problem,” explained Wu. This is how nature survives.
‘In a way, it’s a more robust system. Small does not mean weak. One group of them is unbeatable. I think these tools inspired by nature are generally more durable because nature has proven that it works.’
The study was recently published in Lab on a Chip, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The project is similar in scope to work by researchers at Weinberg Medical Physics in Maryland.
These experts have designed soft robots known as MANiACs (magnetically aligned nanorods in alginate capsules) that can deliver drugs to parts of the body that are barely accessible by oral or intravenous medication.