Sunday, December 10, 2023

Microbots for IBS

In managing IBS and other GI conditions, the greatest challenges often lie in accessing and visualizing the problem areas within the complex network of the human body. However, the latest advancements in medical technology are transforming this landscape, bringing what once seemed like science fiction into the realm of reality. 

The exploration of the GI system has significantly advanced since the 1970s with the advent of technologies like sonde type and ropeway enteroscopy. A landmark development occurred in 2007 with the introduction of the single-balloon enteroscope (SBE) system, revolutionizing the comprehensive inspection of the small bowel. The advent of a motorized enteroscope further streamlined this process, offering the potential for complete enteroscopy in a single session.

In 2010s, "insideable" devices expanded to include an ingestible pill camera - PillCamSB -  to monitor pressure, pH and temperature, gastrointestinal motility, lesions, ulcers, early signs of tumors and bleeding within the small bowel. Proteus sensor could be attached to any pill or food item, enabling it to communicate vital health information from within our bodies.  Well Cow bovine health monitor designed to be swallowed by cows measured rumen pH and temperature to prevent health issues and ensure the production of high-quality milk.

The late 20th century witnessed the birth of microbots, a revolutionary product of the microcontroller revolution. These tiny robots, envisioned for medical use in the 1980s, now capitalize on advancements in wireless technology, including Wi-Fi, for improved communication and control. Made from synthetic, biological, or biohybrid materials, microbots are poised to redefine precision in drug delivery and targeted treatments. They could navigate the labyrinth of body's micro-paths, full of barriers that are difficult to break through, break up hard-to-reach clots or deliver drugs to even the most inaccessible tumors.

Microbots, with their capacity for direct drug delivery in the GI tract, promise to reduce systemic toxicity significantly. Xenobots can assemble themselves and motile living biobots or anthrobots can self-construct. Combining these with cutting-edge technologies like CRISPR 2.0 could herald a new era of precision in gene editing.

With a high failure rate of drug candidates in clinical trials, microbots offer a beacon of hope. These micromachines can precisely deliver drugs to disease locations, addressing the challenges of systemic delivery methods. This precision opens possibilities for reevaluating drugs previously set aside due to toxicity, and it stimulates new drug development ventures.

Hydrogel, known for its excellent biocompatibility and adaptable shape, has emerged as a focal point in biomedicine research. Its responsiveness to environmental stimuli (like pH, light, and temperature) has led to the development of "smart" responsive hydrogel micro-nano robots. These are now at the forefront of biomedical applications, including targeted drug delivery, stem cell therapy, and cargo manipulation.

Innovative uses of hydrogel technologies are continually being explored. For instance, recent advances have seen the development of soft and hard hybrid bionic hydrogel robots, adept at tasks like controllable grasping, tumor cell detection, and continuous drug/cell release. Merging these hydrogel robots with medical contrast agents enables their tracking within the body using nuclear magnetic resonance technology.

One of the most groundbreaking applications is the use of smart hydrogel structures for microbiome sampling in the GI tract. These hydrogel microbots, easily swallowable and retrievable, are poised to offer unprecedented insights into the GI microbiome, a critical aspect of IBS research and treatment.


Nehme F, Goyal H, Perisetti A, Tharian B, Sharma N, Tham TC, Chhabra R. The Evolution of Device-Assisted Enteroscopy: From Sonde Enteroscopy to Motorized Spiral Enteroscopy. Front Med (Lausanne). 2021 Dec 23;8:792668. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2021.792668. PMID: 35004760; PMCID: PMC8733321.

Yoon D, Park S, Park S. Smart hydrogel structure for microbiome sampling in gastrointestinal tract. Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical. 2023 Aug 15;389:133910.

Cao Q, Chen W, Zhong Y, Ma X, Wang B. Biomedical Applications of Deformable Hydrogel Microrobots. Micromachines (Basel). 2023 Sep 24;14(10):1824. doi: 10.3390/mi14101824. PMID: 37893261; PMCID: PMC10609176.

Singeap AM, Sfarti C, Minea H, Chiriac S, Cuciureanu T, Nastasa R, Stanciu C, Trifan A. Small Bowel Capsule Endoscopy and Enteroscopy: A Shoulder-to-Shoulder Race. J Clin Med. 2023 Nov 26;12(23):7328. doi: 10.3390/jcm12237328. PMID: 38068379.

Kriegman S, Blackiston D, Levin M, Bongard J. A scalable pipeline for designing reconfigurable organisms. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Jan 28;117(4):1853-1859. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1910837117. Epub 2020 Jan 13. PMID: 31932426; PMCID: PMC6994979.

Gumuskaya G, Srivastava P, Cooper BG, Lesser H, Semegran B, Garnier S, Levin M. Motile Living Biobots Self-Construct from Adult Human Somatic Progenitor Seed Cells. Adv Sci (Weinh). 2023 Nov 30:e2303575. doi: 10.1002/advs.202303575. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 38032125.