Navigation Links
Tiny swimming bio-bots boldly go where no bot has swum before

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. The alien world of aquatic micro-organisms just got new residents: synthetic self-propelled swimming bio-bots.

A team of engineers has developed a class of tiny bio-hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own. Led by Taher Saif, the University of Illinois Gutgsell Professor of mechanical science and engineering, the team published its work in the journal Nature Communications.

"Micro-organisms have a whole world that we only glimpse through the microscope," Saif said. "This is the first time that an engineered system has reached this underworld."

The bio-bots are modeled after single-celled creatures with long tails called flagella for example, sperm. The researchers begin by creating the body of the bio-bot from a flexible polymer. Then they culture heart cells near the junction of the head and the tail. The cells self-align and synchronize to beat together, sending a wave down the tail that propels the bio-bot forward.

This self-organization is a remarkable emergent phenomenon, Saif said, and how the cells communicate with each other on the flexible polymer tail is yet to be fully understood. But the cells must beat together, in the right direction, for the tail to move.

"It's the minimal amount of engineering just a head and a wire," Saif said. "Then the cells come in, interact with the structure, and make it functional."

See an animation of the bio-bots in motion at and a video of a free-swimming bot at,taher/freeSwimmer.avi.

The team also built two-tailed bots, which they found can swim even faster. Multiple tails also opens up the possibility of navigation. The researchers envision future bots that could sense chemicals or light and navigate toward a target for medical or environmental applications.

"The long-term vision is simple," said Saif, who is also part of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I. "Could we make elementary structures and seed them with stem cells that would differentiate into smart structures to deliver drugs, perform minimally invasive surgery or target cancer?"

The swimming bio-bot project is part of a larger National Science Foundation-supported Science and Technology Center on Emergent Behaviors in Integrated Cellular Systems, which also produced the walking bio-bots developed at Illinois in 2012.

"The most intriguing aspect of this work is that it demonstrates the capability to use computational modeling in conjunction with biological design to optimize performance, or design entirely different types of swimming bio-bots," said center director Roger Kamm, a professor of biological and mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "This opens the field up to a tremendous diversity of possibilities. Truly an exciting advance."


Contact: Liz Ahlberg
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related biology news :

1. Nothing fishy about swimming with same-sized mates
2. Researchers develop rapid test strips for bacterial contamination in swimming water
3. Study shows Where Alzheimers starts and how it spreads
4. Big data project reveals where carbon-stocking projects in Africa provide the greatest benefits
5. High-resolution 3-D imaging draws new picture of Golgis whereabouts during cell division
6. Where water is limited, researchers determine how much water is enough
7. 2-way traffic enable proteins to get where needed, avoid disease
8. Deletion of any single gene provokes mutations elsewhere in the genome
9. Hear where you are: How sound not only informs, but places us
10. Where can coral reefs relocate to escape the heat?
11. After millennia of mining, copper nowhere near peak
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/6/2015)... , Oct. 6, 2015 Track Group, ... today that it has signed a contract with the ... across the full range of sentences under the Department,s ... of the Americas. "This contract with the Virginia DOC ... the US and advances our position as a trusted ...
(Date:10/5/2015)... ) releases ... (NASDAQ: NXTD ), a biometric authentication company focused ... ) releases the following market and ... a biometric authentication company focused on the growing mobile ... ) releases the following market and ...
(Date:10/1/2015)... Oct. 1, 2015  Biometrics includes diverse set ... body characteristics, such as fingerprints, eye retinas, facial ... of biometrics technology has been constantly increasing in ... five years. In addition to the most prominent ... recognition, other means of biometric authentication are rapidly ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2015)... Oct. 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ: ... engaged in developing and commercializing novel treatments in oncology, ... Dennis Turpin , the Company,s former Senior Vice ... its Quebec City office.  ... Chief Executive Officer of the Company commented, "After a ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... October 12, 2015 LabStyle Innovations ... Management Solution, today announced its Medical Director, Dr. ... at MobiHealth,s 5th EAI International Conference on Wireless ... through innovations in mobile and wireless technologies," the conference ... from October 14 - 16, 2015. The conference ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... , Oct. 12, 2015 VolitionRx Limited ... a completed clinical study of its NuQ ® blood-based ... the online issue of Clinical Epigenetics , the official ... conducted in collaboration with Lund University, ... Andersson , MD, PhD, Professor of Surgery and Vice-Dean, Faculty ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... Seattle WA (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2015 , ... ... for the treatment of retinal diseases that can safely and chronically be administered as ... Global Health Impact Forum co-hosted by The Cleveland Clinic and taking place October 25th ...
Breaking Biology Technology: