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Cell transplantation with scaffold microrobots

DAEGU, KR, June 2019 — A scaffold microrobot for stem cell delivery and transplantation has been developed by an international team of researchers, including those led by Hongsoo Choi at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology’s (DGIST) Department of Robotics Engineering. The researchers say that the innovation can further enhance the existing treatment efficiency of stem cells.

Stem cell treatment has been in the limelight as a regenerative medical technique, but its efficiency and safety are low due to the loss of the cells during the in vivo delivery. The treatments are also expensive.

To overcome these limitations, the DGIST research team devised a scaffold microrobot in a spherical and helical type using 3D laser lithography. The biggest achievement of this study is that it minimized cell loss in the body through a wireless control method using an external magnetic field while transplanting stem cells quickly and precisely at the same time.

While the researchers tested the microrobots in a static external environment, this study cultured a hippocampal neural stem cell on a microrobot for the first time. They divided the cell into specific cells — such as astrocyte, oligodendrocyte and neuron — and succeeded in precisely delivering and transplanting them in the target.

To achieve this, the research team showed the cell transfer and transplantation process using the microrobot inside a body-on-a-chip (BOC), a microfluidic cell culture system that replicates a physiological in vivo environment. They also injected the microrobot into the internal carotid artery of a rat’s brain and transferred it to the anterior cerebral artery and middle cerebral artery using an outer magnetic field.

Another highlight of this research, the team said, is that they successfully cultured the human nasal turbinate derived stem cells (provided by Sung Won Kim's team at the Catholic University St. Mary's Hospital) on the microrobot in 3D.

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DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aav4317