Fish-Shaped, Magnetic Microrobots Could Soon Swim Through Our Blood Vessels Delivering Drugs

November 21, 2021 at 6:09 pm

Pharma wants to pump our veins full of magnetically controlled, microscopic robots for targeted chemo and drug delivery

Researchers are developing fish, crab and butterfly-shaped microrobots that would travel through our blood vessels, open their “mouths,” and vomit out drugs like chemo.

Suspended in a solution of iron nanoparticles, the shape-shifting microrobots’ movement would be controlled by magnets.

The stated purpose of the technology is targeted delivery of chemo-therapy in cancer patients, but the Chinese researchers acknowledge the micro-bots could be used for delivering other pharmaceuticals too.

In a proof-of-concept study, the scientists demonstrated how the fish-bot could swim through simulated blood vessels (guided by magnets), open its mouth, and deliver chemo wherever the simulated blood became acidic, killing surrounding cells. (Video here.)

A year ago, Johns Hopkins University, engineered similar shape-shifting micro-machines called theragrippers. Inspired by a parasitic worm that clamps onto its host’s intestines and slow releases drugs.

While it is unclear how the fish-shaped microrobots would be administered, theragrippers can be inserted via cotton swab through the nose, where they can travel throughout the body.

This swab contains dozens theragrippers, each the size of a speck of dust. CREDIT: Johns Hopkins University