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By Kristin Houser
A robot army
If you believe futurist Ray Kurzweil, by 2030 we’ll all have armies of microscopic robots flowing through our bodies, diagnosing diseases and delivering drug treatments where needed.
One big problem? We don’t have a good way to get drug-delivering bots where they need to go. However, researchers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) think they’ve found a solution: sugar pills.
They published their study in the journal ACS Nano on July 30.
In a previous study, the UCSD team used micromotors — tiny self-propelling robots — coated with antibiotics to treat ulcers in lab mice.
The bots did what they were supposed to, but the mice’s gastric acid and intestinal fluids caused some of the tiny bots to release the drugs before they reached the ulcers. Additionally, some of the micromotors got stuck in the mice’s throats if they got into the body by being swallowed with a liquid.
To get around these issues, the UCSD researchers placed tens of thousands of micromotors into pills created out of lactose and maltose, two sugars chosen because they’re nontoxic, easy to mold into tablets, and can disintegrate when needed.
On-Demand drug delivery
When they tested the pills in lab mice, the researchers found that the micromotors encapsulated in sugar did a better job of delivering their drugs than ones delivered via liquid solutions or tablets created out of silica.
Now that we have a more effective way to deliver micromotors exactly where we want them, we can move one step closer to Kurzweil’s vision of robot armies patrolling our insides to keep us healthy.
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