While there has been a great deal of work on a variety of micro- and nanoparticles that can deliver drugs and other therapies within the body, compared with bacteria they’re extremely rudimentary in how they can move within the body. Most are simply carried along by the blood to whatever destinations they end up being most attracted to. Bacteria, on the other hand, can propel themselves with consistent determination toward whatever target they desire.
Researchers at the Pennsylvania State University, working with colleagues in the UK and Canada, have now developed a way to 3D print custom microswimmers that can transport drugs and nanotherapeutic agents, as well as potentially manipulate tissue directly inside the body.
The devices are tiny tori, disks shaped like donuts. They’re coated with nickel and platinum. The platinum is used to react with hydrogen peroxide, within which the microswimmers are currently designed to function. This reaction creates power to push the donuts, but the nickel is utilized to get the devices to respond to a magnetic field. By fluctuating the magnetic field carefully in specific ways, the microswimmers can be made to switch between two methods of swimming and to point in a particular direction.
The team was able to load these devices with other, previously developed, microswimmers, as well as with bimetallic nanorods that mimic bacteria, and colloidal particles.
It seems possible for this kind of technology to one day be used to deliver a variety of therapies precisely to locations deep within the body, and to do so without having to perform any invasive procedures in the process.
Here’s a video showing off the new micro swimmers doing a variety of tasks:
Study in Nature Communications: Shape-programmed 3D printed swimming microtori for the transport of passive and active agents
Via: Penn State