May 28, 2017

Scientists hope microbots will revolutionize medicine

There are three types of medical micromotors scientists hope can carry out these functions: chemical, physical, and biohybrid.

How they're different:

  • Chemical micromotors react to the liquids around them by using platinum or silver as a catalyst.
  • Physical micromotors manifest as a magnetic helix that act like cargo mules for the body and could perform biopsies or microsurgeries.
  • Biohybrid micromotors are bacteria-driven — they follow bacteria and can be controlled through an external force (think: magnetism) to control and move things around in the body.

Why it matters: "With a coordinated push, microbots could usher in an era of non-invasive therapies within a decade," said Mariana Medina-Sánchez and Oliver G. Schmidt, the researchers behind the essay. Furthermore, the emergence of medical micromotors could revolutionize the types of medicines able to be administered throughout the body, as well as give surgical access to people in more rural areas.

The challenges:

  • Most are currently fueled by toxic chemicals like hydrogen peroxide.
  • Navigating the human body - this is more difficult than making it around a Petri dish.
  • Safety - researchers will have to demonstrate microbots can be removed or breakdown in the body.
Go deeper