As a kid, I enjoyed playing with remote-controlled cars. It was exciting to watch the cars speed around, turn where I wanted, and go where I told them to go. Researchers at Harvard have developed what could eventually be a drug-delivery method that’s not far removed from this childhood pastime.
Peer Fischer and Ambarish Ghosh created nanoscale “propellers” that look like corkscrews or bacterial flagella. The team successfully steered the propellers using a magnetic field. This technique allowed Fischer and Ghosh to push 5-µm silica nanobeads along a precise and reproducible path. After additional research, the propellers could one day deliver particles in the bloodstream, possibly after being injected.
The scientists demonstrated the degree of control they achieved in a short video that reminds me of an Etch-A-Sketch. Actually, they show greater control than I ever managed with an Etch-A-Sketch.
Fischer’s team created billions of the propellers from a glass substrate with a simple manufacturing method. The propellers could be made from other materials, and biocompatible and biodegradable propellers would likely be ideal.
These propellers show that the inspiration for beneficial technology can come from seemingly frivolous places. They also make me wish I still had my old toybox.