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Bacteria-Busting Robot

June 6, 2018

Researchers design tiny robots to battle antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Transcript

MRSA bacterium (sphere) attached to the biohybrid nanorobot. (Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila et al., Science Robotics. 3, 2018)

A bacterium (sphere) attached to the nanorobot. (Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila et al., Science Robotics. 3, 2018)

BOB HIRSHON (Host):

Robots that attack bacteria. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to the antibiotics we use to kill them. One solution is to send in tiny robots to hunt down the bacteria, and also soak up the toxins they produce. In the journal Science Robotics, UC San Diego bioengineer Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila and her colleagues describe building and testing a microscopic robot made of gold nanowire. It’s coated in a synthetic cell membrane with traits of both red blood cells and blood platelets.

BERTA ESTEBAN-FERNÁNDEZ DE ÁVILA (UC San Diego):

We use platelets, because they can interact with the bacteria, and we use the red blood cells because they can neutralize the toxins from this bacteria.

HIRSHON:

So far, they’ve tested them only in the laboratory. If they also perform in living circulatory systems, they could be customized to target particular bacteria responsible for the most intractable infections. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon