February 24, 2024

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Hong Kong: Modular Microrobots for Targeted Cell Delivery

Image Credits: CUHK, Press Release

A collaborative effort spearheaded by Professor Zhang Li from the Faculty of Engineering, alongside Professor Philip Chiu Wai-yan and Professor Tony Chan Kai-fung from the Faculty of Medicine (CU Medicine) at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu from Nanyang Technological University, has resulted in the development of a modular microrobot, as detailed in a recent publication in Science Advances.

Image Credits: CUHK, Press Release

Microrobots face significant challenges in achieving robust actuation, multifunctionality, and long-term biosafety simultaneously. Current methods of cell-based therapy delivery in the biliary tract or liver are often imprecise, with a majority of cells failing to reach the intended target. Magnetic microrobots offer a promising solution due to their ability to navigate inaccessible regions within the body. However, challenges arise in integrating multifunctionality into these devices while ensuring long-term biosafety, particularly in environments with mucous.

The newly developed modular magnetic microrobot represents a significant breakthrough in addressing these challenges, offering a strategy to equip microrobots with superior magnetic actuation and cellular functionality without compromise. Professor Zhang describes the microrobot as a combination of magnetic actuation (MA) and cell scaffold (CS) modules, akin to a rocket and a satellite, respectively.

The MA module propels and controls the microrobot, while the CS module facilitates cell loading and biodegradability, enabling targeted therapy. Upon reaching the target site, the MA and CS modules separate, allowing the MA module, which contains a high dose of magnetic materials, to be retrieved using an endoscope, minimising potential hazards. This retrievable design enables the use of high-dose magnetic materials to combat dynamic biological environments, enhancing the effectiveness of cell therapy delivery.

Professor Sung highlights the transformative potential of the microrobot, offering a minimally invasive approach to inaccessible body systems and the treatment of inflammatory or malignant conditions. Validation in vivo using rabbit models has demonstrated the efficacy of magnetic navigation, on-demand disassembly, and post-operative retrieval.

Professor Chiu emphasises the significance of the research in enabling direct endoluminal delivery of cells into the targeted region in the biliary tract, while eliminating the risk of residual high-dose magnetic materials. This approach presents a new avenue for endoluminal cell-based therapy of bile duct diseases.

Professor Chan underscores the versatility of the modular microrobots, which can be combined with different modules to extend functionality for various applications. Moreover, compatibility with medical imaging modalities such as X-ray fluoroscopy and ultrasound imaging paves the way for clinical translation.

The team envisions the modular microrobots as a promising platform for minimally invasive interventions, offering high efficiency and safety across diverse clinical applications. The development of such technology represents a significant advancement in the field of biomedical engineering, with implications for the treatment of a wide range of diseases and conditions.

The collaborative efforts of the research team have led to the development of a modular microrobot that holds immense promise in revolutionising targeted cell delivery and endoluminal interventions. With its innovative design and multifunctionality, the microrobot represents a significant advancement in biomedical technology, offering new avenues for minimally invasive therapies and improved patient outcomes.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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