Bio & Medicine

A hybrid micro-robot that can travel in a physiological environment and catch injured cells.

A hybrid micro-robot that can be controlled and navigated using two distinct mechanisms—electric and magnetic—has been developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University. It is about the size of a single biological cell (10 microns across). The miniature robot can explore between various cells in a natural example, recognize various kinds of cells, distinguish whether they are solid or biting the dust, and afterward transport the ideal cell for additional review, like hereditary examination.

Additionally, the microrobot is able to transfect a gene or drug into the targeted single cell that it has captured. The discovery, according to the researchers, may have applications in medical diagnosis, drug transport and screening, surgery, environmental protection, and single-cell analysis research.

Prof. Gilad Yossifon and his team at Tel Aviv University’s School of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Biomedical Engineering developed the cutting-edge technology. Dr. Yue Wu, a postdoctoral researcher, and Sivan Yakov, a student, worked with postdoctoral researcher Dr. Afu Fu from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. The study was published in the Advanced Science journal.

“The capacity of the micro-robot to move autonomously was inspired by biological micro-swimmers like bacteria and sperm cells. This is an exciting area of research that is fast evolving, with numerous applications in disciplines such as medicine and the environment, as well as as a research tool.”

Prof. Gilad Yossifon from the School of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tel Aviv University.

According to Prof. Gilad Yossifon, micro-robots, also known as micro-motors or active particles, are tiny synthetic particles the size of a biological cell that are able to move around and carry out a variety of tasks (such as the collection of synthetic or biological cargo) either independently or under operator control.

Prof. Yossifon says, “Biological micro-swimmers like bacteria and sperm cells inspired the development of the micro-robot’s ability to move independently.” This is a cutting-edge field of study that is expanding rapidly and has numerous applications, including as a research tool and in medicine and the environment.

The researchers used the micro-robot to capture a single blood cell, cancer cell, and bacterium as a demonstration of its capabilities. They also demonstrated that it can distinguish between cells with different levels of viability, such as a healthy cell, a cell that has been damaged by a drug, a cell that is dying, or a cell that is dying in a natural “suicide” process (such a distinction may be significant, for example, when developing anti-cancer drugs).

The microrobot captured the desired cell and moved it to a location where further analysis could take place. The microrobot’s ability to identify target cells that are not labeled is another important innovation. The micro-robot uses a built-in sensing mechanism based on the unique electrical properties of the cell to identify the type of cell and its condition (such as its degree of health).

“Our new development significantly advances the technology in two main aspects,” declares Prof. Yossifon. Electric and magnetic hybrid propulsion and navigation are two distinct mechanisms. Moreover, the miniature robot has a superior capacity to distinguish and catch a solitary cell, without the requirement for labeling, for nearby testing or recovery and transport to an outer instrument. Although biological samples were used in the laboratory for in vitro assays, the goal was to develop microrobots that could also function within the body, such as effective drug carriers that could be precisely guided to their target.

The scientists make sense of the fact that the cross-breed drive component of the miniature robot is of specific significance in physiological conditions, like those tracked down in fluid biopsies. ” In environments with relatively high electrical conductivity, such as a physiological environment, where the electric drive is less effective, the microrobots that have been operating up until this point on the basis of an electrical guiding mechanism were ineffective. The complementary magnetic mechanism, which is very effective regardless of the environment’s electrical conductivity, comes into play here.

Prof. Yossifon closes, “In our examination, we fostered an imaginative miniature robot with significant abilities that fundamentally add to the field: the ability to identify, capture, and transport a single cell from one location to another in a physiological environment, as well as hybrid propulsion and navigation employing a combination of electric and magnetic fields. These capabilities are useful for research as well as a wide range of applications.

“The technology will help in, among other things, the following areas: clinical conclusion at the single cell level; bringing medications or qualities into cells; hereditary altering; conveying medications to their objective inside the body; cleaning the climate from dirty particles; drug improvement; and making a ‘research facility on a molecule—a minuscule lab intended to do diagnostics in places open just to miniature particles.”

More information: Yue Wu et al, A Magnetically and Electrically Powered Hybrid Micromotor in Conductive Solutions: Synergistic Propulsion Effects and Label‐Free Cargo Transport and Sensing (Adv. Sci. 8/2023), Advanced Science (2023). DOI: 10.1002/advs.202370044

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