Microrobots and bacteria deliver nanoparticle drugs to diseased tissue
Branco Weiss Fellow Simone Schürle is the lead author of a paper published recently in Science Advances discussing newly developed methods of using nanoparticles for the treatment of various ailments including cancer and cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases. The nanoparticles’ efficacy in shuttling materials to and into diseased tissue is hampered by a number of physiological barriers – the biggest one is the lining of the blood vessel.
In most cases, researchers target their nanoparticles to disease sites that are surrounded by “leaky” blood vessels, such as tumors. This makes it easier for the particles to get into the tissue, but the delivery process is still not as effective as it needs to be. “Our idea was to see if you can use magnetism to create fluid forces that push nanoparticles into the tissue,” explains Dr. Schuerle.
The robots that Dr. Schuerle used in this study are similar in size to a single cell and can be controlled by applying an external magnetic field. They consist of a tiny helix that resembles the flagella that many bacteria use to propel themselves and are coated with nickel, which makes them magnetic. Using external magnets, the researchers applied magnetic fields to the robot, which makes the helix rotate and swim through the channel. These particles penetrated twice as far into the tissue as nanoparticles delivered without the aid of the magnetic robot.
The researchers also developed a variant of this approach that relies on swarms of naturally magnetotactic bacteria instead of microrobots. The researchers found that in this case nanoparticles were pushed into the model tissue three times faster than when the nanoparticles were delivered without any magnetic assistance.
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