Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wireless Microgrippers Grab Living Cells in ‘Biopsy’ Tests

14.01.2009
Researchers have invented dust-particle-size devices that can be used to grab and remove living cells from hard-to-reach places without the need for electrical wires, tubes or batteries.

In experiments that pave the way for tiny mobile surgical tools activated by heat or chemicals, Johns Hopkins researchers have invented dust-particle-size devices that can be used to grab and remove living cells from hard-to-reach places without the need for electrical wires, tubes or batteries. Instead, the devices are actuated by thermal or biochemical signals.

The mass-producible microgrippers each measure approximately one-tenth of a millimeter in diameter. In lab tests, they have been used to perform a biopsy-like procedure on animal tissue placed at the end of a narrow tube. Experiments using the devices were reported in the online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of Jan. 12-16.

Although the devices will require further refinement before they can be used in humans, David H. Gracias, who supervised the project, said these thermobiochemically responsive, functional micro-tools represent a paradigm shift in engineering. “We’ve demonstrated tiny inexpensive tools that can be triggered en masse by nontoxic biochemicals,” said Gracias, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering in Johns Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering. “This is an important first step toward creating a new set of biochemically responsive and perhaps even autonomous micro- and nanoscale surgical tools that could help doctors diagnose illnesses and administer treatment in a more efficient, less invasive way.”

Today, doctors who wish to collect cells or manipulate a bit of tissue inside a patient’s body often use tethered microgrippers connected to thin wires or tubes. But these tethers can make it difficult navigate the tool through tortuous or hard-to-reach locations. To eliminate this problem, the untethered grippers devised by Gracias’ team contain gold-plated nickel, allowing them to be steered by magnets outside the body. “With this method, we were able to remotely move the microgrippers a relatively long distance over tissue without getting stuck, he said. “Additionally, the microgrippers are triggered to close and extricate cells from tissue when exposed to certain biochemicals or biologically relevant temperatures.”

The microgripper design -- six three-jointed digits extended from a central “palm” -- resembles a crab. (In fact, the joint design was inspired by that of arthropod animals.) To fabricate the microgrippers in their initial flat position with all digits fully extended, the researchers employ photolithography, the same process used to make computer chips. When the tiny devices are inserted in the body and moved magnetically, the gold-plated nickel in the palm and digits will allow doctors to see and guide the grippers with medical imaging units such as an MRI or CT.

The microgrippers’ grasping ability is rooted in the chemical composition of the joints embedded in the finger-like digits. These joints contain thin layers of chromium and copper with stress characteristics that would normally cause the digits to curl themselves closed like fingers clasping a baseball. But the researchers added a polymer resin, giving the joints rigidity to keep the fingers from closing.

When the microgrippers arrive at their destination, however, the researchers raise the temperature to 40 degrees C (or 104 degrees F, equivalent to a moderate fever in humans). This heat softens the polymer in the joints, causing the fingers to flex shut. The researchers also found an alternative method: Some nontoxic biological solutions can also weaken the polymer and cause the grippers to clamp down on their target.

In their lab experiments, the Johns Hopkins researchers used a microgripper, guided by a magnet, to grab and transport a dyed bead from among a group of colorless beads in a water solution. Team members also captured dozens of live animal cells from a cell mass at the end of a capillary tube. The cells were still alive 72 hours later, indicating the capture process did not injure them. Also, the microgrippers captured samples from relatively tough bovine bladder tissue.

The experiments showed that the tetherless microgripper concept is viable and has great potential for medical applications, the researchers said. Gracias’ team is now working to overcome some remaining hurdles. As currently designed, each biologically compatible gripper can close on a target only once and cannot be reactivated to reopen and release its contents. (A similar device from the Gracias team, aimed at industrial micro-assembly applications, can be directed to both capture and release its load, but this requires chemicals that are not safe for patients. This pick-and-place microgripper was described in a recent article in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.)

Gracias, who also is affiliated with the Institute for NanoBioTechnology at Johns Hopkins, hopes to collaborate with medical researchers who can help to move the microgrippers closer to use as practical biopsy and drug delivery tools in humans. In September, he received a $1.5 million New Innovators Award from the National Institutes of Health. He plans to use the five-year grant to develop an entire mobile, biochemically responsive micro- and nanoscale surgical tool kit.

The lead author of the PNAS microgripper article was Timothy G. Leong, who was a doctoral student supervised by Gracias. In addition to Leong and Gracias, the paper’s co-authors, all students supervised by Gracias at Johns Hopkins, were Christina L. Randall, a doctoral student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering; Brian R. Benson, a junior undergraduate supported by a Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award; Noy Bassik, who is enrolled in an M.D./Ph.D. program involving the School of Medicine and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; and George M. Stern, a master’s degree student in chemical and biomolecular engineering.

The Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer staff has obtained a provisional United States patent covering the team’s inventions and is seeking international patent protection.

Funding for the research was provided by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Dreyfus and Beckman foundations.

Photos, illustrations and videos may be seen online at http://www.jhu.edu/news/home09/jan09/gracias.html and are available by contacting Phil Sneiderman.

Phil Sneiderman | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.jhu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cnidarians remotely control bacteria
21.09.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Immune cells may heal bleeding brain after strokes
21.09.2017 | NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Comet or asteroid? Hubble discovers that a unique object is a binary

21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cnidarians remotely control bacteria

21.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?

21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>