NanoRobots Deliver Antibiotics and Improve Dramatically Survival Rate

Tiny robots made of algae are swimming through the lung fluids of mice, delivering antibiotics straight to the bacteria that cause a deadly form of pneumonia. It’s happening now in UC San Diego ( UCSD) labs and it shows the tremendous potential of microrobotics. Nanoparticles, loaded with medicine, are attached to the microrobots and introduced into the lungs.

Microscopic and colorized view of an algae robot covered with drug-carrying particles

“They can actively swim in the body fluid, dip into the thick part of the tissue and carry a lot of these therapeutic payloads to the disease site, and then very effectively kill the bacteria,” said professor of nanoengineering Liangfang Zhang, one of the lead researchers.

Zhang said the results of the experiment were dramatic. The mice treated with drugs in a conventional way died within days.

But when we loaded the drugs into our formulation — the nanoparticle and the algae system — we found that all the animals survived,” he said. “We achieved a remarkable 100% survival rate from the study.

Anyone who has swallowed an aspirin knows one very conventional way of delivering drugs. The medication is ingested and is carried throughout the body. “You take the pill and it’s all passive. The drug goes slowly by diffusion,” explained Joseph Wang, a distinguished professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego. “By having dynamic active delivery, we are accelerating targeted delivery to the right location.”

Wang’s lab at UCSD shows many examples of microrobots, designed to navigate the body’s channels and cavities. The algae robot is organic, and swims with its flagella. Another robot, made from zinc, reacts with gastric fluid and generates hydrogen gas, which propels it like a true rocket.

Wang points out the algae robot is not attracted to the bacteria, but they move so effectively through the fluids of the lung that it greatly improves the dispersion of the drug. Wang has actually loaded robots into pills, including aspirin. “This we showed with pigs, actually, and showed that when you have the active delivery there is much better uptake by the blood,” Wang said.

The purpose of the research, of course, is not to treat pigs or mice, but humans. Zhang said the study of algae robots in the lungs is very innovative and experimental, and human trials are still a ways away.

We demonstrated the feasibility of the technology and what I foresee is, we need to study more to demonstrate the efficacy in large animal species,” he added, “before we can translate it to a human study.”


The Sea Floor Is Full Of Minerals Vital in The Manufacture Of Smartphones

From the safety of their research vessel, scientists are exploring one of Earth’s last frontiers – the sea floor – to discover more about valuable minerals vital in the manufacture of smartphones. The researchers, from the University of Bergen in Norway, are sending robots 2,500m down into the waters between Norway and Greenland, to try to understand the environments potentially rich with rare earth minerals.


The ocean sea floor on Earth is, for the most part, unknown,” scientist Thibaut Barreyre said. “It’s totally fair to say that we know much more about the surface of the moon and Mars – mapped by satellites and different devices – than we know about our own planet.”

The international team is using technology including autonomous robots and human-piloted submarines to explore the sea’s dark depths where zinc, gold and copper are also found. The scientists hope the explorations will reveal why some areas have minerals and others do not, how much is down there and what damage mining them would have on the environment. A viable new source of rare earths, a group of 17 elements used in the production of smartphone screens, magnets, camera lenses and X-ray machines could be highly lucrative. But it is not that simple, Barreyre explained. “Some of them (waters) are rich in gold, copper, zinc and rare earths. And others have almost none of those. And that’s why it’s very important to us as scientists to understand it,”he commented. The team, which began exploring the area last year, will spend the next five years searching.