Engineers at the University of Colorado—Boulder have designed a new type of “microbot,” which has to potential to revolutionized treatment for various health conditions, including interstitial cystitis, which affects millions of Americans each year. The new microbots are described in a recent article published in Small.
The new microbots, which the designers confidently refer to as miniature healthcare providers, could change how interstitial cystitis is treated, along with a host of other health conditions. That’s because they are designed to be incredibly small and move quickly throughout the body. For example, they are roughly 20 micrometers in size, which is considerably thinner than a strand of human hair. When deployed in the body, they can move at speeds that, relatively speaking, are faster than a cheetah can move.
These unique features make them a game changer when it comes to medical treatment. In the study published in Small, for example, researchers administered a collection of these microbots into mice. The microbots carried dexamethasone, a steroid medication commonly used to treat interstitial cystitis, signaling that the microbots have huge potential to deliver medications to various parts of the body to improve treatment. The microbots were able to latch specifically to the bladder to prevent someone from urinating them out. The research team hopes that in the future, this ability to deliver microbots to various areas of the body could enable them to provide treatment for different conditions by designing them to target certain areas of the body.
This offers an exceptionally unique way to treat interstitial cystitis, which is a bladder condition that can cause extreme pelvic pain. Per normal standards of care, patients need to receive doses of dexamethasone to the bladder through a catheter, which can be uncomfortable. With the new microbots, people can receive doses of dexamethasone over a roughly two day period, eliminating the need for multiple visits and offer more exposure to helpful drugs.
The team still has a lot of work to do before the microbots can be used in humans. For example, researchers hope to create microbots that are biodegradable.