Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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22 September 2017

Box of Tricks

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

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