Researchers at the Max Planck Institute’s Physical Intelligence Department in Germany have made a breakthrough that could aid in the fight against cancer. According to reports, scientists at the institute developed magnetically-controlled microscopic robots that can reach tumour cells and fight cancer by combining elements of robotics and biology. For the process, the scientists used E.coli bacteria, dubbed the ‘superhero of the microbial world’.
The E.coli bacteria can easily move through a wide range of materials, from liquids to highly viscous tissues, making it an excellent choice for the experiment. When the bacterium was exposed to a magnetic field, the scientists were able to increase its speed, allowing it to reach the desired location faster. Meanwhile, spherical-shaped carriers containing the medication known as liposomes were also attached. The microrobots grow in the tumour and begin their ‘miracle’ work.
Birgül Akolpoglu, a PhD student and the study’s first author, decoded the process by stating that these biohybrid microrobots can be used to awaken patients’ immune systems, which will aid in the fight against tumour cells while also increasing the effectiveness of cancer drugs.
‘Imagine injecting bacteria-based microrobots into the body of a cancer patient. We could precisely direct the particles towards the tumour by using a magnet. When a sufficient number of microrobots surround the tumour, we direct a laser at it, causing the drug to be released. Not only is the immune system being stimulated, but the additional drugs are also assisting in the destruction of the tumour,’ Akolpoglu was quoted as saying on the official Max Planck Institute website.
It is important to note that bacteria are drawn to areas of low oxygen levels and high acidity in the body, both of which are common near tumours. Thus, scientists were able to use both the natural and programmed properties of modified E.Coli bacteria to combat cancer tumours. ‘ Bacteria-based biohybrid microrobots with medical functions could one day help to fight cancer more effectively. It’s a novel therapeutic approach that’s not too dissimilar to how we treat cancer today,’ said co-author Dr. Metin Sitti.