Implantable Microrobots Revolutionize Drug Delivery

A team at Columbia Engineering is implanting hydrogels that manufacture 3D microscale-sized machines in the body.

The completed device after layers have been sealed. Photo: SauYin Chin/Columbia Engineering
The completed device after layers have been sealed. Photo: SauYin Chin/Columbia Engineering

A recent Science News Journal article discussed how Sam Sia, a Biomedical Engineering Professor atColumbia Engineering, and his team have found a way to use biomaterials to create freely moving devices with three-dimensional parts. They achieved this by inventing a new technique that stacks the soft materials in layers. The iMEMS technique can provide functions such as manifolds, valves, pumps, rotors, and drug delivery.

Once implanted, the team is able to control the devices without the use of a sustained power supply such as a battery, which is toxic. The device was tested in a bone cancer model, where it released doxorubicin over a 10-day period with high treatment efficacy, and 1/10th the toxicity of the standard systemic chemotherapy dose. Sia’s iMEMS system is one step closer to developing soft miniaturized robots capable of safely interacting with humans.

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