Technology 3 min read

Miniature Microswimmer Bots set to Revolutionize Healthcare

Newly developed magnetic microbots could be the beginning of a new chapter in modern healthcare. | Image By nobeastsofierce | SHutterstock

Newly developed magnetic microbots could be the beginning of a new chapter in modern healthcare. | Image By nobeastsofierce | SHutterstock

A research team has developed new tiny microswimmer bots that can be miniaturized and used to deliver drugs to target sites in the body.

Since the beginning of the millennium, researchers have been working on microswimmer bots that can navigate inside the body by swimming through the bloodstream.

The use of microscopic machines for drug delivery is a promising prospect for the future of modern medicine.

The microscopic size of such swimming devices allows them to overcome biological barriers that usually stand in the way of drugs administered using traditional methods.

They can reach their target with unmatched accuracy while reducing the dosage and delivery time of the necessary drug.

Despite extensive research and development, microbot technology is still theoretical. Now, thanks to the work of a team from the University of Exeter, the future of miniature health robots seems far more promising.

Magnetic Microbots Swim Like Sperm Cells

In the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage, a crew boards a nuclear submarine and shrink themselves to go inside the body of their scientist friend to save him from a blood clot in the brain.

Instead of a Navy submarine, the Exeter team based their design for nanomachines on sperm cells.

The researchers described the microswimmers as ferromagnetic. This property allows scientists to activate and control them using a magnetic field.

Measuring one millimeter long, this robotic flagellum consists of a ferromagnetic head and a flexible tail to propel itself through various biological environments.

Providing some more miniaturization work, these ferromagnetic swimming devices will be made available to hospitals as drug delivery systems that would dramatically enhance treatment success chances.

But the team also proposed other applications of the tech such as diagnosis and microfluidics, on which is based the lab-on-a-chip technology.

“We also envisage microscopic versions of the device being used on ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technology, where complex procedures normally conducted in a laboratory, such as diagnosing disease, are conducted on a simple chip…,” said team member Professor Feodor Ogrin. “In future, diagnosing many diseases before getting treatment could be as simple as putting a drop of blood on a chip in a doctor’s office. This is especially useful for diseases like sepsis, where symptoms progress from mild to life-threatening before such tests can be conducted”.

Exeter’s device isn’t the first development of externally controlled swimming microbots, but regarding the expressiveness and complexity of previous designs, it’s the first that suits large-scale production.

The research paper, “Torque driven ferromagnetic swimmers”, is available in the journal Physics of Fluids l.

Do drugs now need to evolve to be compatible with microswimmer bots?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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