Man-made nano and micro particles are a dime a dozen these days, with all sorts of mechanisms built-in to deliver drugs, help spot cancer, and destroy tumors. Now researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany have developed a much more natural approach, combining red blood cells with bacteria to ferry cargoes rapidly to desired spots in the body. From there, the technique allows the use of infrared light to destroy these hybrid microswimmers.
The red blood cells are used to hold he cargo within their cytoplasm, while the bacteria provide the motor power to travel throughout the body. Because these microswimmers maintain their natural properties, they’re able to perform tricks such as squeezing through capillaries much narrower than themselves.
In order to guide the hybrid devices to their destination, they’re loaded with iron nanoparticles, making them respond to external magnetic forces.
So far all this has been tried in a laboratory with further tests on living animals and hopefully humans in the not too distant future. The potential for much safer, targeted delivery of drugs, therapies, and imaging agents is quite great using the new microswimmers.
Here are a few videos showing how the microswimmers can be used and manipulated:
Study in Science Robotics: Soft erythrocyte-based bacterial microswimmers for cargo delivery…