US researchers have identified a way to encapsulate micromotors into pills to diagnose and treat disease in the human body.
The devices are self-propelled microscopic robots the width of a human hair and are designed to perform a wide range of biomedical tasks.
According to a study published in ACS Nano, the micromotors carry drugs and will release them after reaching the digestive system. The pill’s coating will protect the devices while traversing.
The research was conducted by Joseph Wang, Liangfang Zhang and colleagues from the University of California San Diego.
In their earlier research, they used micromotors coated with an antibiotic to treat ulcers in laboratory mice and found that this approach offers better results compared to taking the drugs directly.
However, researchers identified some flaws in that approach including body fluids compromising the effectiveness of the devices and triggering early release of their payloads.
They also noted that during oral consumption, micromotors can get trapped in the oesophagus.
The new research from Wang and Zhang identified a way to protect and carry these devices into the stomach without compromising their mobility or effectiveness.
The researchers used sugars such as lactose and maltose to create a pill and encapsulated tens of thousands of micromotors made of a magnesium/titanium dioxide core. These devices are loaded with a fluorescent dye cargo.
The study noted that pills showed improved release and retention of the micromotors in the stomach when tested on laboratory mice.
The researchers concluded that encapsulation of the devices in traditional pill form enhances their ability to deliver medicines to specific targets without diminishing their mobility or performance.