Researchers have hijacked sperm cells to create spermbots that can be remotely controlled through magnetic fields, to go to the desired location.
Hijacking sperm cells to create little robots might seem far out, but that's exactly what researchers from the Dresden Institute for Integrative Nanosciences have done. Their "spermbots" consist of live sperm cells in little tubes, that can be magnetically controlled to move in a desired direction until they reach their destination and do their job – they're currently robust enough to even guide a specific sperm cell to an egg cell. The scientists hope that further development will allow the technology to offer a viable alternative to parents trying to have a child through in-vitro fertilization. When perfected, the spermbots could also be used as a safe means for drug delivery and gene manipulation.
One of the major challenges in creating micro robots that can potentially travel within the human body is the issue of a safe fuel source. Nanobots with engines efficient enough to propel themselves through bodily fluids need to carry fuel that's often toxic to the human body, and sometimes these machines can pass through into the cells and affect their functioning. To overcome these problems, the Dresden team began looking at safer alternatives to artificial nano engines.
"We thought of using a powerful biological motor to do the job instead and we came up with the flagella of a sperm cell, which is physiologically less problematic," Professor Oliver G. Schmidt, the Institute's Director, tells Gizmag. "The idea came to us five years ago when I noticed that sperm cells are of similar size to microtubes we can fabricate."
To create biorobots out of sperm cells, the researchers began working with bovine (bull) sperm cells – which are similar in size to human sperm cells. The first step was to create thin conical magnetic tubes capable of trapping sperm cells out of a titanium and iron film. The microtubes are rolled up in a way that makes one end larger than the other, with a diameter that's slightly larger than that of a bull sperm head.
Via Jeff Morris