Remember that experiment with iron filings and magnets in primary school and the magnets were used to guide the small metal pieces across the surface? Scientists are toying with the same idea and have created the world's first robotic sperm, dubbed spermbot. The microscopic biotic robots can be used to guide sperm to meet egg cells or be used to carry certain drugs.
Oliver Schmidt along with his colleagues at the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences in Dresden, Germany, mixed some magnetic nanotubes and bull sperms to create world's first remote-controllable spermbot. The team used microtubes that were 50 microns long and 5 to 8 microns in diameter from nano particles of iron and titanium. They then joined the tubes to a bull sperm mixed fluid.
The tiny tubes were designed so the bovine sperm can enter it at one end but cannot go through or slide back out. Using a magnetic field, the microbots are manipulated to go to whatever direction the scientists wanted. It uses its flagellum, the whip or tail-like organ of locomotion of the sperm, still free at one end to propel itself forward.
"This type of hybrid approach could lead the way in making efficient robotic micro-systems," said Dr. Eric Diller, mechanical engineering assistant professor at the University of Toronto Canada but not involved with the study, as quoted by the science journal NewScientist.
The invention has added a prospective for its obvious applications in fertility. The technology might pave the way for in vivo fertilization where instead of uniting the sperm and egg in a petri dish, doctors will be able to guide it inside the human body. Further research will open a whole world of possibilities for the microbot.
According to the researchers, the sperms were much feasible solution because they have no side-effects on human body and come with their own power source. There have been other nanoparticle experiments using sperms but they were quite ineffective. One day, such microbots could be used to even target and kill cancerous cells in the body or deliver potent drug to eliminate killer viruses or bacteria.
The results of the study titled "Development of Sperm-Flagella Driven Micro-Bio-Robot" were published in the December issue of the journal Advanced Materials.
(written by Randell Suba and Kamal Nayan)