From drug-delivering microbots to cancer-fighting nano-swarms, the age of ingestible, autonomous health devices is upon us. So it was only a matter of time before somebody built a miniature stethoscope that sits in your GI tract monitoring your vital signs.
We all dream of journeying (or living) among the stars. But space is a spectacularly awful place for humans, and we’re not suited for life there at all. And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are all the ways we’ll need to re-engineer the human body, in order to make space our home.
In the six decades that we’ve been sending humans into space, scientists have learned just how truly bad it is for us to live off-planet.
Researchers from the University of California have developed acid-fueled micro-machines capable of traveling and delivering cargo directly inside a living creature. It’s a breakthrough that’s expected to significantly advance the field of medical nano-robotics.
Scientists have developed drug-delivering micro-machines before, but these systems were only tested under in vitro conditions (i.e., cell cultures outside the body). But in this latest breakthrough, Wei Gao and colleagues have shown that artificial micromotors can travel inside a live mouse, deliver its cargo, and produce no toxic effects.
This is definitely an important proof-of-concept. Nanotechnology has the potential to reshape the way medicine is done. In the future, scaled-up versions of this rudimentary micro-machine could deliver important medicines to previously inaccessible parts of the body (e.g., to treat peptic ulcers and other illnesses), fight infectious diseases, or even perform complex tasks like direct cellular manipulation and repair.
By relying on specific DNA:DNA interactions as a “smart glue”, we have assembled microparticles into a colloidal gel that can hold its shape. This gel can be extruded with a 3D printer to generate centimeter size objects. We show four aspects of this material: The colloidal gel material holds its shape after extrusion. The connectivity among the particles is controlled by the binding behavior between the surface DNA and this mediates some control over the microscale structure. The use of DNA-coated microparticles dramatically reduces the cost of DNA-mediated assembly relative to conventional DNA nanotechnologies and makes this material accessible for macroscale applications. This material can be assembled under biofriendly conditions and can host growing cells within its matrix. The DNA-based control over organization should provide a new means of engineering bioprinted tissues.
The researchers have developed a series of nanoparticles made of either polystyrene or polyacrylamide that are then coated with DNA. Yes, packing peanuts… Don’t start hoarding just yet – it’s pretty basic, but they’re working on more complex structures. That could mean organs, medications, Star Trek replicators…