White blood cells can be harnessed as natural, biocompatible microrobots through the use of lasers, researchers from China have reported. The finding, which the team demonstrated in living zebrafish, could pave the way towards a new method of targeted drug delivery for precision treatment of diseases.
Medical microrobots have attracted considerable attention for their potential to deliver drugs to particular sites in the body and to help clear pathogens from the circulatory system.
In most medical microrobot concepts, the tiny tools are fabricated outside of the body and then either injected into the patient or packaged up in capsules and then swallowed. Trials in small animals, however, have revealed a problem – namely that these foreign objects have a tendency to trigger an immune response in their host body, with the result that the microrobots end up being removed from the body before they can fulfil their intended purpose.
To get around this, an alternative approach lies in taking cells that are already present in the body – and are therefore not at risk of setting off an immune response – and press ganging them into service as natural microrobots.
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