Scientists from the University of California, San Diego have successfully used 3D printers to create microfish which could help administer medicine and clear up toxins in the human body.
The new 3D printing technology that researchers have employed is called „microscale continuous optical printing’ (µCOP). This fast and flexible method is used for creating high-resolution 3D materials on a micro scale. The innovation consists in the use of an optical chip made of approximately 2 million micro-mirrors. Each mirror diverts UV light onto a photosensitive material, which solidifies once exposed to the rays. The mirrors can be placed in a variety of ways, offering nano-engineers the possibility to make hundreds of microbots, within seconds. These nano-scale robots have complex geometric structures but are tinier than the width of a hair.
’This method has made it easier for us to test different designs for these microrobots and to test different nanoparticles to insert new functional elements into these tiny structures,” explained Jinxing Li, one of the study’s co-authors.
Li hopes that, in the future, research will be able to help develop micro-devices (or microbots) that will not only be capable of operating precisely but also safer.
For their proof-of-concept demonstration which was published in the journal `Advanced Materials’, the researchers printed microfish, which were 120 micron long and 30 micron thick. Afterwards, they placed them in hydrogen peroxide and covered their tails in platinum nanoparticles. As a result of the chemical reaction between the two substances, the microbots were propelled forward. Magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles were also used on their heads, so that they could be magnetically steered.
Toxin-neutralizing nanoparticles were added inside the bodies of the microfish. Polydiacetylene (PDA) was used, due to its effectiveness in capturing `pore-forming toxins such as the ones found in bee venom’. Once these nanoparticles were added, the fish were successful in identifying and neutralizing toxins from the solution. This was measured by means of a red glow, whose intensity was directly proportional to the toxin density. As the PDA established a chemical bond with the toxin molecules and began flushing them out, the fish became fluorescent.
Synthetic microfish are superior to traditional nano-scale robots due to their shape which is ideally designed for swimming. Also, their nanoparticles could be used for injecting chemicals into cells and tissues, allowing microbots to encapsulate and easily transport medicine throughout the body.
This remarkable breakthrough could allow patients to heal faster, by targetting problem areas precisely and effectively. Researchers are confident that 3D printing could potentially revolutionize drug delivery in the future, changing modern health care forever.
Image Source: Phys.org