Usually, when substances are ingested or injected into the body, they follow the bloodstream, and the same method should be applied to these tiny robots. So what’s the issue here? Well, according to Prof. Ahmed, they are 10 times smaller than a red blood cell and nearly impossible to control once they get into the bloodstream.
To overcome this challenge, the researchers proposed the use of ultrasound. The sound waves would push the ”nanoswimmers,” as they call them, toward the vessel walls, without affecting the motion of red blood cells in the blood. This way, by precisely guiding them, targeted drug delivery would be possible.
Ultrasound waves were used because they can penetrate deeply into the body without harmful effects on nearby tissue. In addition, it’s a non-invasive technique found in all hospitals that is commonly used for clinical imaging and diagnosis.
Another method proposed was the use of magnetic fields to treat blood clots. Unlike the nanoswimmers, these nanorobots would contain biodegradable tiny iron-based composite structures and would have a more complex mechanism. Taking cues from industrial robots which use robotic arms to move a gripper at the end, these would use a similar approach. The ”arm” would just be replaced by the magnetic field that propels the tiny robots.
The research is under development, and for now, it’s only in its early stage with a long way to go ahead. However, the methods could offer a promising way of targeting disease treatment. Who knows, we might see nanorobots implemented faster than we might think.
The research was published in the EU Research and Innovation Magazine, and their projects, titled Sonobots and Angie, are currently EU-funded.