Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Compromised Design

Optimising the design of microbots for delivering cargo in the body without alerting the immune system

02 October 2020

Compromised Design

Anyone who's accidentally worn jeans to a formal business meeting knows that the most practical outfit isn’t always the most socially appropriate one. Researchers designing microrobots – tiny devices that deliver medicine to hard-to-reach areas of the body – need to keep that compromise in mind, building bots that can move efficiently to their targets but avoid enraging the immune system, always on the hunt for intruders. Features that help easy movement tend to also draw attention. A new study investigated this balance, seeing how helical microswimmers (yellow) with varying numbers of twists interact with mouse immune cells (red). They found that otherwise identical bots elicited different responses depending on the numbers of twists in their helices. Details like this will help design more efficient, less disruptive microbots, and could lead to the production of hybrid devices with the steerable mobility of microswimmers and the protective power of immune cells.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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