Engineers at the University of California, San Diego, have created tiny robotic fish that may soon be injected into the human body to deliver medicine and clean up toxins.
"We have developed an entirely new method to engineer nature-inspired microscopic swimmers... smaller than the width of a human hair," says Wei Zhu, a PhD student involved in the research, on science news website EurekAlert.
The 3D-printed microfish can propel and steer themselves in liquid, as well as perform various medical functions – such as detoxifying poisonous solutions, using toxin-neutralising nanoparticles that form part of their bodies. As the fish swim around, the nanoparticles bind with the toxic molecules, removing them and purifying the solution.
The proof-of-concept microfish are set to inspire a new generation of "smart" nanorobots that can detoxify the blood and deliver drugs direct to problem areas in the body. The innovative technology is a major improvement on existing methods used to build microrobots, which have been unable to perform such sophisticated tasks until now.