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Tiny robots deliver drugs to the nervous system

15 September 2021

Destined to Deliver

Imagine a determined bicycle courier tackling tricky terrain, fighting fierce headwinds, and navigating an unlit maze of roads to deliver urgent treatments to a patient in remote isolation. Such is the journey of a MANiAC ('magnetically aligned nanorods in alginate capsules'), tiny robots designed to deliver drugs to hard-to-reach spots in the body. The small, soft robots can move against the current, tumble up slopes and navigate through tissue, all controlled by magnetic fields (pictured in different test situations, and then depositing dyes around rat brain and mouse spinal cord material). Precise delivery of drugs, particularly for diseases in the central nervous system, can help with difficult-to-treat conditions while minimising the impact on other regions. Overcoming the physical challenges of navigating the body is essential to making this technology functional, ultimately providing precise packages of treatment where it is needed most for patients everywhere.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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