Now ‘bacterial’ microbots to help find cures

London, April 20 (Inditop) Researchers have created the first ever microbots that look like real bacteria and can carry medicines to predetermined targets in the body, remove plaque deposits in the arteries or help biologists to modify cellular structures that are too small for direct manipulation by researchers.

The medical microbots created by scientists in Zurich resemble spirals with tiny heads and can navigate liquid like miniature corkscrews, reminding you of ungainly bugs with their long whip-like tails.

The tiny spiral-shaped, nature-mimicking lookalikes of E. coli and similar bacteria, are called “Artificial Bacterial Flagella” (ABFs), the “flagella” referring to their whip-like tails.

They can only be observed under a microscope because of their extremely tiny sizes, almost as small as natural flagellated bacteria.

The ABFs were invented, manufactured and enabled to swim in a controllable way by researchers led by Bradley Nelson, professor at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at ETH Zurich.

Unlike their natural counterparts that cause diseases, ABFs are intended to help cure diseases in the future, said an ETH Zurich release.

ABFs are fabricated by vapour-depositing several ultra-thin layers of the elements indium, gallium, arsenic and chromium onto a substrate in a particular sequence. They are then patterned from it by means of lithography and etching.

This forms super-thin, very long narrow ribbons that curl themselves into spirals as soon as they are detached from the substrate.