Microscopic Device Image
The acoustically actuated microscopic device can manipulate the fluid that surrounds them, collect cells or release drugs. (Credit: Mahmut Selman Sakar, EPFL)

Researchers have developed remote-controlled, mechanical microdevices that, when inserted into human tissue, can manipulate the fluid that surrounds them, collect cells or release drugs. This breakthrough offers numerous potential applications in the biomedical field, from diagnostics to therapy.

The core component of the device is an acoustic microengine, which was manufactured using 3D nanoprinting. The parts are made out of hydrogel. The researchers drew on computational simulations to invent a complex microdevice consisting of several engines.

The team has also developed an array of engines and mechanisms. By combining various parts — pumps, a collection chamber and filters of various sizes — they designed a biopsy device. The researchers have also built mobile devices that are propelled by the fluid flow generated by acoustic microengines.

Combining this technology with medical imaging means patients will be able to undergo long-term monitoring without any outside intervention. Microfluidic devices can now be injected into human tissue and used to greatly enhance biochemical analysis thanks to the tunability of hydrogels.

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