Researchers have reportedly developed nanorobots that can eliminate toxins and bacteria from the bloodstream.

The tiny ultrasound-powered robots, or nanorobots, can reportedly swim through blood and remove any harmful bacteria.

The tiny robots were made by coating gold nanowires with a hybrid of platelet and red blood cell membranes. The hybrid cell membrane coating lets the nanorobots do the tasks of two different cells at the same time.

This means that the platelet membrane can target the bacteria while the red blood cell can target the toxins those bacteria produce.

The gold body of the robots also allows them to swim around the blood without any chemical fuel because of its response to ultrasound. This ability to move helps the small machines efficiently mix with their targets, improving the detoxification process.

“By integrating natural cell coatings onto synthetic nanomachines, we can impart new capabilities on tiny robots such as removal of pathogens and toxins from the body and from other matrices,” Joseph Wang, a professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and one of the study’s author. “This is a proof-of-concept platform for diverse therapeutic and biodetoxification applications.”

Read More: New Cancer Treatment Uses Nanoparticles to Kill Tumor Cells

Wang’s team developed the nanorobots while Lianfang Zhang, another professor at the UC San Diego, created the coating technology used in the robots.

“The idea is to create multifunctional nanorobots that can perform as many different tasks at once,” Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a postdoctoral scholar at UC San Diego and co-first author of the study, said.

“Combining platelet and red blood cell membranes into each nanorobot coating is synergistic—platelets target bacteria, while red blood cells target and neutralize the toxins those bacteria produce.”

The tiny robots are about 25 times smaller than the with of a human hair. They can travel through blood at a maximum speed of up to 35 micrometers per second. During the experiment, the researchers were able to treat blood samples infected with MRSA and their toxins. Once introduced to the blood, they reduced the number of harmful bacteria in the bloodstream threefold.

The nanorobot project is still in its early stages and will need a number of years of testing before it is readily available.  The paper detailing its creation was published in the journal Science Robotics.

Aside from eliminating bacteria and toxins in the blood, where else do you think this nanorobot technology could find other useful applications?

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