Stem cells are “replacement cells” that can go somewhere in the body and fix damaged tissue. Their great power comes from the fact that they are the “jack of all trades” of cells, as they can take any type and form is required. This is why they are used for a wide range of medical applications, helping doctors fight severe diseases. One of the most common problems that we can’t overcome though is planting the stem cells where they are needed. There are locations in the body that can’t be reached through conventional methods like a needle for example, and/or require incredible precision for a beneficial result.
Researchers from the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science & Technology (DGIST) in South Korea have used 3D laser lithography technology to design spherical and helical micro-robots that can travel inside the body via rolling and corkscrewing motion respectively. The researchers have used magnetic fields to control the motion of the microbots inside the body of a mouse, which was the animal that was used for the experiment. To check the position of the robots, the team used an IVIS system, which is based on optical tomography.
The first experiment was successful as the researchers managed to deliver the stem cells in various locations inside the living mice. The differences in the microtissues haven’t caused a problem for the tiny robots’ movement. This obviously opens up the way for human stem cell therapy, which is the primary goal of these experiments, although we have a long way to reach this level.
Guided by magnetic fields, a helical robot carries stem cells through a body-on-a-chip system designed to simulate a tumor in the liver:
Image by felixioncool from Pixabay
Video Credit: Jeon et al., Sci. Robot. 4, eaav4317 (2019)