Although biomedical robots aren’t a new thing, researchers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have developed a robot that can scour the host’s blood for infection, cleaning it up as it goes.
The research is a huge breakthrough in the medical world, presumably helping to eradicate infections and eliminating the need for antibiotics, which are becoming less effective as humans come to rely on them ore and more.
The project, led by Joseph Wang and Liangfang Zhang have tested the robots using test tubes of blood rather than on humans and the next step is testing on mice. It works to fight gram-positive bacterial infections, which not only means the robots have to fight the bacteria itself, but also, the toxins produced by the bacteria.
The two work in tandem to attack the body – the toxins make holes in red blood cells, while the bacteria attach to platelets in the blood and lead to the destruction of the red blood cells and platelets, which causes extreme illness and even death if not treated.
UCSD’s robots are disguised as platelets and red blood cells – essentially nanowires wrapped in pretend blood cells. The bacteria then attaches itself to the nanorobot, which then traps the infection and neutralises it. The body can’t detect the wrapped nanowires are not invaders either, so aren’t targeted by white blood cells, designed by the body to fight intruders.
So far, the nanorobots have been tested to fight infections such as MRSA, but they will be able to combat other infections in the future. Future iterations of the robot could be used to deliver drugs directly to the blood stream, resulting in faster treatment, although that’s still a long way off, the researchers explained.