Show Details


June 18, 2014

Sperm-like robots could deliver medicine inside the body.



Robotic swimmers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Inspired by bacteria and sperm cells that swim using long tails, or flagella, robotics engineer Sarthak Misra at the University of Twente in the Netherlands is building what he calls “spermbots.” In the journal Applied Physics Letters, he explains that the tiny devices have no energy source of their own. Instead, electrical coils positioned outside the body create a magnetic field.

SARTHAK MISRA (University of Twente, Netherlands):

And that causes the spermlike looking robot to oscillate; and since it has a longflexible tail, it starts to oscillate and then propels itself forward.


The technology is still in its early stages, but eventually Misra and his colleagues hope to use the tiny robots to deliver targeted medicines to specific tissues—for instance, chemotherapy drugs to tumors. He says they might even be used as artificial sperm to carry a specific set of genetic information to an egg. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.