Mini ‘Shifter’ Robot May Reduce Collateral Damage From Cancer Therapy

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Robot: By delivering drugs directly onto cancer cells, minirobots can lessen the side effects of chemotherapy. Guided by magnets, the devices release the drugs when they detect the tumor’s acidity.

The experiment was carried out with mini-robots in the shape of a crab, butterfly and fish, which change when they come into contact with a low pH environment.

To generate this shift, the researchers adjusted the density of some of the robots’ parts (such as the crab’s claws and the butterfly’s wings) to respond to the acidity caused by the cancer cell.

Scientists used the magnets and pH changes to make the minirobots do different tasks — among them, loading and launching the drugs used in cancer treatment directly on the tumor.

The use of the devices would allow the reduction of collateral damage from chemotherapy, in which the drugs travel throughout the patient’s body. As it is done directly on the problem cells, the procedure would be less invasive.

In the article, which was published in the scientific journal ACS Nano, of the American Chemical Society, the researchers explain that the crab-shaped robots are able to direct the delivery of microparticles, being able to pick up, transport and release the drug with the “open and close ” of a claw.

Minirobots are 4D, that is, they were produced from a specific hydrogel, which is responsive to changes in pH, in 3D printers and change shape when receiving stimuli.

To become magnetic, the devices were placed on top of iron oxide nanoparticles.