IRONSperm: Sperm-templated soft magnetic microrobots

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Science Advances  08 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 28, eaba5855
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba5855


We develop biohybrid magnetic microrobots by electrostatic self-assembly of nonmotile sperm cells and magnetic nanoparticles. Incorporating a biological entity into microrobots entails many functional advantages beyond shape templating, such as the facile uptake of chemotherapeutic agents to achieve targeted drug delivery. We present a single-step electrostatic self-assembly technique to fabricate IRONSperms, soft magnetic microswimmers that emulate the motion of motile sperm cells. Our experiments and theoretical predictions show that the swimming speed of IRONSperms exceeds 0.2 body length/s (6.8 ± 4.1 µm/s) at an actuation frequency of 8 Hz and precision angle of 45°. We demonstrate that the nanoparticle coating increases the acoustic impedance of the sperm cells and enables localization of clusters of IRONSperm using ultrasound feedback. We also confirm the biocompatibility and drug loading ability of these microrobots, and their promise as biocompatible, controllable, and detectable biohybrid tools for in vivo targeted therapy.

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