World First: New Nanofish Will Change the Way We Deliver Medicine

They're made from gold, silver, and nickel.

9. 14. 16 by Jelor Gallego
Randy Patton, Ohio State University
Image by Randy Patton, Ohio State University

Swimming robots

Drug delivery technology is currently experiencing a sort of Renaissance. From delivery using ultrasonic vibrations to ingestible electronics, we are currently developing many ways to effectively deliver medicine in a safer, more targeted way.

But who would have thought that included injecting swimming nanomachines into our body?

Researchers at U.C. San Diego have created the world’s first nanofish, small robots that swim like fishes, created with drug and medicine delivery in mind.

While creating nanomachines is no new feat, current models are more akin to submarines, spinning with a corkscrew-like propeller. While this has enabled them forward movement, it is not the most efficient way of propelling these tiny machines.


Targeting deliveries

Instead, the new study, to be published in Nano Small Micro, proposes a fish-like movement. Essentially, the robot will sway its tail back and forth using electromagnetism. The small nanomachines are made up of 800 nanometer-long gold and nickel segments connected by silver.

An external magnet controls their movement, making the nickel sway back and forth. By altering the strength and orientation of the magnets used, the speed and direction  of the machines can be controlled. This allows the researchers to tell the fish when and where to go, opening the possibility of pushing drugs to their intended target. The ultimate goal is targeted delivery, or even the possibility of manipulating single cells.

Currently, the researchers are working on several improvements, according to New Scientist. These include tackling the challenge of how to get the machines out of the body. One solution would be making the robots biodegradable. But that doesn’t solve all the issues. The fish would also be extremely expensive because of the precious metals used in the design. Thus, it may be a while before we have schools of fish solving all of our interior medical issues.

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