Lately, scientists have been experimenting on mice with tiny little robots, each about half the width of a human hair, giving humans the possibility to start using micromotors for curing various diseases in the future. They found incredible results, according to experts.

According to research published on August 16 in the journal Nature Communications, these robots are programmed to swim through the digestive system. There, they liberate a substance that counters gastric liquids and then releases a cargo of antibiotics with the desired PH.

Image credit: HomeTests
Image credit: HomeTests

This is a method that has not been yet used in humans or bigger animals.

The microscopic robots are used for treating stomach and gastrointestinal tract diseases

The treatment was created by scientists from the University of California, San Diego. They targeted the “micromotors” to Helicobacter pylori, a species of bacteria that causes ulcers.

To treat the infections, they administered the tiny robots orally once a day for five consecutive days, first using an antibiotic named clarithromycin. Later they found it was slightly more effective to use a drug known as proton pump inhibitors to stop the production of acid. There are some side effects when using this drug, but they are not usual.

This micromotors are basically spherical magnesium cores covered with several different layers, which protect, treat, and enable them to stick to the stomach walls. When they’re inside of the body, the motors are propelled by a stream of hydrogen bubbles produced by a reaction between the magnesium cores and the gastric acid.

“It’s a really nifty and impressive application. Micromotors are still new, but their impact will be big,” says Thomas Mallouk at Pennsylvania State University.

The robots dissolve leaving no residue 

Microscopic robots’ layers are also extremely sensitive to the stomach acid, and when the process lowers it in about 20 minutes, the antibacterial is released. They are made of biodegradable materials, so when their work is done, the tiny robots dissolve without leaving any harmful residue, enabling the stomach to get back to its normal activity within a day.

This is the first experiment that uses micromotors to treat bacterial infections with antibiotics. It was made by Joseph Wang and Liangfang Zhang, two nanoengineering professors at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

“The movement itself improves the retention of antibiotics on the stomach lining where the bacteria are concentrated,” said Wang.

Gastric acid can be totally destructive to some drugs that are consumed orally, such as many antibiotics and protein-based pharmaceuticals. Additional substances are taken with the medicine depending on the bacterial infection, or ulcers usually. Proton pump inhibitors are one of these substances, which are used to suppress gastric acid production. They sometimes can cause adverse side effects, like headaches, diarrhea, fatigue, even anxiety or depression.

The stomach acid of the mice returned to normal when the microscopic robots disappeared the day after. This is a huge advance for scientists who believe someday this kind of technology might be used for healing humans.

Source: Nature Communications