Magnetic Fish-Shaped Microbots Deliver Chemotherapy to Exactly Where It’s Needed

Chemotherapy is an important treatment method for many types of cancer, but it doesn’t come without its downsides. The way it’s currently delivered, the drugs are injected into the bloodstream and travel freely throughout the body. They kill cancer cells, which is great, but they also cause damage to healthy cells and result in side effects such as hair loss, fatigue, and other symptoms.

Luckily, researchers are continually working on new ways to make chemotherapy more effective and diminish some of its side effects. And now a new nanobot shaped like a fish may help with that task.

Photo: YouTube/American Chemical Society

These nanobots, which were created by Chinese scientists, are shaped like fish and are only a hundredth of a millimeter in size. They are also bathed in iron oxide until they’re magnetic so that they can be led by magnets through the blood vessels to the areas of the body where they’re needed. And then once they get within proximity of a tumor, they do something pretty amazing.

Photo: YouTube/American Chemical Society

The microbots are 3-D-printed with an amazing hydrogel that is capable of changing its shape when exposed to different pH levels. This allows the fish to open its “mouth” and release the chemotherapy drug it contains when it gets within range of a tumor, because cancerous tumors change the pH of their environment, making it more acidic.

Photo: YouTube/American Chemical Society

So far microbots have only been tested in petri dishes. They’ll have to be made even smaller before they can be used in the human body, but this is an amazing first step forward toward a better precision treatment option for cancer patients.

Photo: YouTube/American Chemical Society

This crazy new invention could spare countless cancer patients from going through a whole host of unpleasant symptoms that often come with traditional chemotherapy treatment by simply targeting the tumor instead of the whole body. We look forward to seeing where this technology will take science in the future.

Learn more about this new technology in the video below.

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