Research ArticleNANOROBOTS

Swarming behavior and in vivo monitoring of enzymatic nanomotors within the bladder

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Science Robotics  17 Mar 2021:
Vol. 6, Issue 52, eabd2823
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.abd2823

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Abstract

Enzyme-powered nanomotors are an exciting technology for biomedical applications due to their ability to navigate within biological environments using endogenous fuels. However, limited studies into their collective behavior and demonstrations of tracking enzyme nanomotors in vivo have hindered progress toward their clinical translation. Here, we report the swarming behavior of urease-powered nanomotors and its tracking using positron emission tomography (PET), both in vitro and in vivo. For that, mesoporous silica nanoparticles containing urease enzymes and gold nanoparticles were used as nanomotors. To image them, nanomotors were radiolabeled with either 124I on gold nanoparticles or 18F-labeled prosthetic group to urease. In vitro experiments showed enhanced fluid mixing and collective migration of nanomotors, demonstrating higher capability to swim across complex paths inside microfabricated phantoms, compared with inactive nanomotors. In vivo intravenous administration in mice confirmed their biocompatibility at the administered dose and the suitability of PET to quantitatively track nanomotors in vivo. Furthermore, nanomotors were administered directly into the bladder of mice by intravesical injection. When injected with the fuel, urea, a homogeneous distribution was observed even after the entrance of fresh urine. By contrast, control experiments using nonmotile nanomotors (i.e., without fuel or without urease) resulted in sustained phase separation, indicating that the nanomotors’ self-propulsion promotes convection and mixing in living reservoirs. Active collective dynamics, together with the medical imaging tracking, constitute a key milestone and a step forward in the field of biomedical nanorobotics, paving the way toward their use in theranostic applications.

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