The field of cancer treatment faces a significant challenge when tumors metastasize to the lungs. Conventional chemotherapy often fails to effectively target lung metastases due to its inefficiency in accumulating in high concentrations in the lungs. However, recent research by the Wang lab and Zhang Research Group at the University of California, San Diego has introduced a groundbreaking approach using biohybrid microrobots to combat this issue.

Traditional microrobots are typically composed of rigid metallic or polymeric materials that are difficult to manufacture and can be toxic to humans. In contrast, biohybrid microrobots utilize microalgae, specifically Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which can autonomously propel themselves through organs like the lungs using flagella. These microalgae are not only less toxic but also easier and cheaper to produce compared to traditional microrobots.

The algae-NP(DOX)-robot designed by the research team combines microalgae with nanoparticles coated with red blood cell membranes. This unique combination allows for targeted drug delivery to the lungs by administering the microrobots through the trachea. The cell membranes act as a disguise, enhancing biocompatibility and preventing attacks by the immune system. Within the nanoparticles is the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin, which is gradually released in the lungs to target tumors.

The research team tested the algae-based microrobots in mice with lung metastases and found that they accumulated in higher concentrations and were retained longer in the lungs compared to traditional drug delivery methods. As a result, the biohybrid microrobots significantly improved therapeutic outcomes by shrinking lung tumors and extending the survival of treated mice. Mice treated with the microrobots experienced a 40% increase in median survival time, showcasing the potential of this innovative approach.

The success of the biohybrid microrobots in treating lung metastases opens up possibilities for addressing other lung-related diseases such as cystic fibrosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The research team is also exploring ways to enhance drug delivery by integrating additional motion control strategies like magnetic guidance or ultrasound trapping. While the clinical application of biohybrid microrobots is still in the future, the potential for combining living microalgae with nanoparticles to revolutionize cancer treatment is promising.

The development of biohybrid microrobots represents a significant advancement in the field of cancer treatment, particularly in targeting lung metastases. By leveraging the unique properties of microalgae and nanoparticles, researchers have demonstrated the potential to improve drug delivery and therapeutic outcomes for lung-related diseases. As further research and development continue, biohybrid microrobots could pave the way for more effective and personalized cancer treatments in the future.


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