Research ArticleMEDICAL ROBOTS

Hybrid biomembrane–functionalized nanorobots for concurrent removal of pathogenic bacteria and toxins

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Science Robotics  30 May 2018:
Vol. 3, Issue 18, eaat0485
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aat0485


With the rapid advancement of robotic research, it becomes increasingly interesting and important to develop biomimetic micro- or nanorobots that translate biological principles into robotic systems. We report the design, construction, and evaluation of a dual–cell membrane–functionalized nanorobot for multipurpose removal of biological threat agents, particularly concurrent targeting and neutralization of pathogenic bacteria and toxins. Specifically, we demonstrated ultrasound-propelled biomimetic nanorobots consisting of gold nanowires cloaked with a hybrid of red blood cell (RBC) membranes and platelet (PL) membranes. Such hybrid cell membranes have a variety of functional proteins associated with human RBCs and PLs, which give the nanorobots a number of attractive biological capabilities, including adhesion and binding to PL-adhering pathogens (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus bacteria) and neutralization of pore-forming toxins (e.g., α-toxin). In addition, the biomimetic nanorobots displayed rapid and efficient prolonged acoustic propulsion in whole blood, with no apparent biofouling, and mimicked the movement of natural motile cells. This propulsion enhanced the binding and detoxification efficiency of the robots against pathogens and toxins. Overall, coupling these diverse biological functions of hybrid cell membranes with the fuel-free propulsion of the nanorobots resulted in a dynamic robotic system for efficient isolation and simultaneous removal of different biological threats, an important step toward the creation of a broad-spectrum detoxification robotic platform.

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