Tiny robots capable of delivering medicine to a specific area of the body, or assisting with micro-surgery, are here: They can be steered, threaded, and unfolded to patch wounds, dislodge swallowed objects, perform biopsies, and deliver targeted medications.
Researchers at the University of California-San Diego proved in 2015 that a nanobot, propelled by gas bubbles, had successfully delivered medicine inside of a live mouse without causing injury.
Caltech scientists developed an autonomous molecular robot, made of a single strand of DNA, that can treat the inside of the human body like a distribution warehouse. The nanobot can travel around, pick up molecules, and deposit them in designated locations.
Scientists have been working on nanobot technologies such as these for the past decade. Late in 2018, scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong unveiled a new way to use nanobots within the body. Millions of tiny, magnetic shape-shifting nanoparticles are able to extend, merge, and collaborate in a swarm.
In practical terms, this means that a surgeon could direct the swarm to deliver targeted medicines during surgery. In 2019, researchers at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering figured out how to create arrays of nanoscale magnets that respond to magnetic fields using a technique called electron-beam lithography to make magnetically reconfigurable robots that are the size of a few micrometers.
In one instance, they made a microscopic bird-like structure that can flap its wings and move as directed. This could someday allow surgeons to perform operations on individual blood vessels or to manipulate single cells. The grand hope with all of these technologies is that nanobots will replace one-size-fits-most medications and therapies, treating our specific ailments in a highly personalized way without causing side effects.
This trend is part of our section on Biointerfaces. Other trends in this section include:
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