Fish-shaped nanorobotics developed to help deliver medicine in vivo

Chinese researchers have 3D-printed nanostructures using genetically engineering recombinant spider silk proteins at a sub-15 nm resolution, which are expected to be applied in bionic perception and nanorobots for drug delivery and the like in the future.

The nanofishes with barbels are able to “swim” in a glucose-containing environment of the human body, and certain conditions are set to trigger the release of the medicine that the nanodevices carry.

The researchers extracted certain gene sequences of the natural spider silks, the toughest fiber in nature, and then cultured the part in escherichia coli to produce the proteins needed to create such nanofishes.

According to Tao Hu, researcher from Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, the finest part of the nanorobotics, the barbel, is only 50 nanometers thick, about one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair.

The biofuel-powered nanorobotics rely on the adjustment of their enzyme activities and a series of chemical reactions mainly involved with the glucose inside human body to create bubbles of oxygen so as to realize directional motion control.

Meanwhile, they can degrade under set conditions including light, pH and heat, and thus cause no burden to the human body, according to the paper.

The study has been published online in the journal Nature Communications.