3D-Printed Microfish Robots May Deliver Drugs in Your Blood

First Posted: Aug 27, 2015 06:46 AM EDT

Imagine 3D-printed microscopic fish that can do more than swim. Scientists have used an innovative 3D-printing technology to manufacture multipurpose fish-shaped microrobots that swim around and are powered by hydrogen peroxide.

The technique used to fabricate the microfish provides numerous improvements over other methods traditionally employed to create microrobots with various locomotion mechanisms, such as microjet engines, microdrillers and microrockets. Most of these microrobots are incapable of performing more sophisticated tasks because they feature simple designs. These new microfish, though, may be able to perform complex actions.

"We have developed an entirely new method to engineer nature-inspired microscopic swimmers that have complex geometric structures and are smaller than the width of a human hair," said Wei Zhu, co-author of the new study, in a news release. "With this method, we can easily integrate different functions inside these tiny robotic swimmers for a broad spectrum of applications."

In this latest study, the researchers incorporated toxin-neutralizing nanoparticles throughout the bodies of the microfish. The powerful swimming motion of the microfish actually enhanced their ability to clean up toxins.

"Another exciting possibility we could explore is to encapsulate medicines inside the microfishand use them for directed drug delivery," said Jinxing Li, co-author of the study.

The findings could be huge when it comes to medicine and surgery. In theory, researchers could use the microfish to target specific areas of the body, and have them "swim" with the needed treatments to that specific site.

With that said, more work needs to be done before this technology is a viable method. For now, though, it presents an intriguing possibility for the future.

The findings are published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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