New Micro-Robot Is The Size Of A Human Cell
A new micro-robot, the size of a single biological cell (a ten thousandth of a centimeter), has been developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University.
It can navigate between different cells in a biological sample, distinguish between different types of cells, identify whether they are healthy or dying, and then transport the desired cell for further study. It can also inject a drug or gene into the captured cell.
The micro-robot is a tiny synthetic particle that can move from place to place and perform various actions autonomously, or through external control by an operator. Its movements were inspired by ‘biological micro-swimmers’ such as sperm cells and bacteria.
The researchers demonstrated its capabilities, using it to capture a single blood cell, cancer cell, and a single bacterium. After identifying the desired cell, the micro-robot captured it and moved the cell to where it could be further analyzed.
The micro-robot could also identify the type of cell and its condition (such as degree of health) using a built-in sensing mechanism based on the cell’s unique electrical properties.
“The intention is to develop in the future micro-robots that will also work inside the body – for example, as effective drug carriers that can be precisely guided to the target,” said Prof. Gilad Yossifon, from the university’s School of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Biomedical Engineering. He and his team developed the micro-robot.
“These capabilities are relevant for a wide variety of applications as well as for research. Among other things, the technology will support medical diagnosis at the single cell level, introducing drugs or genes into cells, genetic editing, carrying drugs to their destination inside the body, cleaning the environment from polluting particles, drug development, and creating a ‘laboratory on a particle’ – a microscopic laboratory designed to carry out diagnostics in places accessible only to micro-particles”.
The research was published in the academic journal Advanced Science.