Self-propelled Micromotors May Change Surgery Process

The first study of synthetic micromotors in vivo (in a living organism) is paving the way for future clinical studies, developing medical countermeasures and other lifesaving applications — ultimately helping to prevent or aid in healing warfighters in harm’s way.

Self-propelled micromotors may soon deliver drugs and perform microsurgery. (Photo: ACS Nano Journal)

Self-propelled micromotors may soon deliver drugs and perform microsurgery. (Photo: ACS Nano Journal/Released)

The research project, managed by Dr. Brian Pate of Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department‘s Joint Science and Technology Office, or DTRA CB/JSTO, has resulted in the ability to introduce artificial micromotors to a living organism. In the study, principal investigators Professor Joseph Wang and Dr. Wei Gao, University of California – San Diego, and their team, loaded gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) onto zinc (Zn) based micromotors and introduced them to the stomachs of living mice.

Within the hosts the micromotors’ autonomous movement and biodistribution was monitored along with toxicity profiles, gastric tissues retention and delivery rates. Results showed that these self-propelled micromotors dramatically improved payload retention in the stomach lining as compared to the common passive diffusion and dispersion of similar orally administered payloads.

Although AuNPs were selected as model cargo due to their common use as imaging agents and drug carriers, this micromotor platform may be readily expanded to include the simultaneous encapsulation and rapid delivery of multiple payloads. This approach affords additional capabilities in therapy, diagnostics and imaging applications. Alternative functionalities may be added to these micromotors through bulk or surface modifications to further expand biomedical applications.

Unlike most existing micromotors, Zn-based micromotors destroy themselves upon completing their cargo delivery mission. This is because the main degradation production of the present micromotors in Zn is an essential general nutrient involved in many aspects of metabolism and found in all body tissues.

These findings are significant in developing advanced medical countermeasures for our warfighters, as they, along with the absence of toxic effects in the stomach, suggest that the movement of micromotors provides distinct advantages for in vivo biomedical applications such as directed drug delivery, diagnostics, and nanosurgery.

Read more about this research in the ACS Nano Journal article “Artificial Micromotors in the Mouse’s Stomach: A Step toward in Vivo Use of Synthetic Motors.”

Story and information provided by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department
Follow Armed with Science on Facebook and Twitter!


Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.