Anyone who has moved house has a healthy respect for flat-pack boxes, but this clever container goes several steps further. Made mostly from a plastic-like polymer, a metallic edge means it can be triggered to open and close when changing a magnetic field. Here it’s being steered towards a yeast cell, trapping it like a cage. A similar device could be used to probe cancer cells, or transfer chemicals from one place to another inside the body. The boxes can also join up to form a mighty microbot which could be used as programmable 'muscles' in tiny transplantable devices (still around 100,000 times smaller than a cardboard box). One of the joys of science is seeing new technology at this stage, where scientists are still 'playing' with ideas – asking “what if?” or “how about?” – a childlike curiosity that, for the moment, is more concerned with the box than what’s inside.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.