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Robots to deliver medication to the body
September 24, 2017, 5:05 pm

Tiny robotic drug deliveries could soon be treating diseases inside your body. For the first time, micro-motors — small autonomous vehicles the width of a human hair — have cured bacterial infections in the stomachs of mice, using bubbles to power the transport of antibiotics.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego in the US used micro-motors to administer a dose of antibiotics daily for five days on mice with bacterial stomach infections. At the end of the treatment, they found their approach was more effective than regular doses of medicine.

The micro-motors consist of a spherical magnesium core coated with several different layers that offer protection, treatment, and the ability to stick to stomach walls. After they are swallowed, the magnesium cores react with gastric acid in the stomach to produce a stream of hydrogen bubbles that propel the motors around. This process briefly reduces acidity in the stomach which triggers the release of antibiotics from the acidity-sensitive antibiotic layer of the micro-motor. Moreover, since the micro-motors are made of mostly biodegradable material, they get dissolved in the stomach leaving no harmful residues.

Generally drugs used to treat bacterial infections, such as ulcers, have to be taken alongside proton pump inhibitors that suppress gastric acid production. But long-term use of proton pump inhibitors can lead to some nasty side effects including headaches, diarrhoea, fatigue and even anxiety or depression. So being able to use the micro-motors that simultaneously lower acidity and release the antibiotics in one dose is a big step forward.

The next step is to look at using micro-motors in a larger animal study, followed by eventual trials in humans, said the researchers.

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