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Engineers Build Self-Propelled Hybrid Bio-Bots

Update Date: Jan 20, 2014 09:03 AM EST

Engineers at the University of Illinois have created a new line of miniature called 'swimming bio-bots.' The bio-bots are the first class of synthetic structures that are capable of traveling through viscous biological fluids on their own. 

Thees bio-hybrid machines can swim like sperm and have been modeled after flagella. 

"Micro-organisms have a whole world that we only glimpse through the microscope," said lead investigator Taher Saif, a mechanical science and engineering professor at the university in a press release. "This is the first time that an engineered system has reached this underworld."

Engineers started out by building the body of the bio-bots by using a flexible polymer. Afterwards they cultured heart cells near the junction of the bio-bots' head and tail. 

Researchers said creating aquatic bio-bots with multiple tails can also make it easier to navigate. Predictions are that future versions of these machines could be constructed for the purpose of detecting certain chemicals, or sensing light. 

"The long-term vision is simple," added Saif, who is also part of the university's Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. "Could we make elementary structures and seed them with stem cells that would differentiate into smart structures to deliver drugs, perform minimally invasive surgery or target cancer?" 

"The most intriguing aspect of this work is that it demonstrates the capability to use computational modeling in conjunction with biological design to optimize performance, or design entirely different types of swimming bio-bots," said EBICS director Roger Kamm, a professor of biological and mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), according to RedOrbit. "This opens the field up to a tremendous diversity of possibilities. Truly an exciting advance."

The development of the machines are detailed in the journal Nature Communications

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