German researchers have created the first micro-biological robot moved by sperm cells, resulting in a microscopic “cyborg” that can be used to carry drugs into the body or to help egg fertilization in the fertility treatments.
Scientists at the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences Dresden managed to “capture” sperm cells inside of metallic nanotubes to control their movements remotely, using magnets.
Magnetic nanotubes measuring 50 microns long and 5-8 microns in diameter, were immersed in a liquid containing bull sperm.
In order to “catch” and prevent sperm getting out of tubes, they have a narrow end, the biggest challenge, says Professor Oliver Schmidt, leader of the project was to adjust the size tubes so that they are only slightly larger than the diameter of the sperms head, but allowing at the same time, the movement of their tail. (A sperm is made up of more dilated portion called the head, which contains the core genetic material, a middle portion, the connecting portion and an elongated and mobile scourge or tail, which by its movement, provides sperm to travel).
Researchers have obtained such a microscopic biological robot (biobot). The tail , which remains outside the metal tube, assures the movement of the biobot.
The direction of movement can be influenced with the help of various chemicals or the magnetic field.
Biobots also could be used in future for the transport of drugs at very precisely localized points of the body or a new type of fertility treatments.
Although so far the studies have been conducted on animals, there is no reason why the method can not work in humans, says Professor Schmidt.
He explains that the sperm are ideal for such applications since they are harmless to the body and do not require an external source of power.
But sperm don’t inherently go where you want them to go. Thus the scientists used some clever nano-engineering to rein them in.
Scientists put bull sperm cells in a petri dish along with a couple dozen iron-titanium nanotubes. The tubes act like those woven fingertraps—sperm can swim into them but can’t back themselves out. Using magnets, scientists can then steer the swimmers in the direction of their choosing. It’s like a remote-control robot where the sperm start the engines and the researchers provide the navigation.
Sperm for Fertilization and Pharmaceuticals
The study was just a proof of concept, demonstrating that the swimmers could be steered in this way. But the technology could one day offer an alternative to in vitro fertilization (whereby sperm fertilize an egg in a petri dish). Spermbots, in contrast, could potentially enable a doctor to direct the entire fertilization process inside the body (in vivo).
And potential applications go beyond fertilization. The paper, published in Advanced Materials, describes spermbots’ potential future use for micromanipulation, like drilling itty bitty holes in tissues inside the body, or fixing cancer cells. Another exciting possibility is targeted drug delivery. The nanotubes are made of a superfine membrane that could carry drugs to diseased parts of the body. The researchers say their bots are an improvement over other sperm-driven nanoparticle setups that have so far proven ineffective, or worse, toxic.
Sperm: not just for baby-making anymore.
Latest posts by Anurag (see all)
- Off-road and On-road Tata Hexa Experience for the car lovers - December 29, 2016
- Friends who define the true equation of Friendship - October 7, 2016
- Freecharge, the Best Digital Wallet in the Digital Ecosystem - September 28, 2016