Drug delivery researchers are constantly exploring ways that can help improve targeted drug delivery. When a drug is ingested or administered, it must move throughout the body in order to reach its intended target. The metabolic processes drugs undergo as they navigate through the body can lead to poor bioavailability and impede the drug’s effectiveness. One recent advance in drug delivery that can improve targeted therapy has been the use of nanobots, or tiny, microscopic robots that can be controlled and manipulated to deliver drugs directly to a target site.
Most current nanobots have limited locomotor modes – they can move forward and backward, and side to side – which could make navigating their way through the complex human body difficult. However, a new nanobot that was recently developed by researchers at Stanford University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering overcomes many of these locomotor disadvantages.
The millirobot, which was described in a paper published in Nature Communications, has been designated as the first “spinning-enabled wireless amphibious origami millirobot.” As its name implies, the millirobot has remarkable capabilities including the ability to travel on-ground and in-water. The millirobot is operated magnetically which would allow healthcare workers to control the robot as it travels through the body. Importantly, however, the millirobot is also designed to adapt to its environment, and can roll, flip, or spin as it encounters obstacles on its way to its target. The video above shows the millirobot and its many capabilities. Click on the SIMLab_Stanford Youtube Channel for more videos of the robot.
The millirobot is in its infancy, and it is currently undergoing improvements and further testing before it can be utilized in live animals and humans. But the millirobot shows great promise for reshaping the biomedical and drug delivery world. As Dr. Renee Zhao, lead researcher of the study, said, “[the millirobot is] the most robust and multifunctional untethered robot we have ever developed.”