Scientists have built a microbot out of algae which could swim through the body – propelled by magnetic forces – and potentially destroy cancer cells when it decomposes.
The idea is that the miniature robots could help doctors to deliver drugs and diagnose diseases in a non-invasive manner.
The spirulina algae, better known for its properties as a “superfood”, has had magnetic particles added to it so that its movement can be controlled remotely, while its natural fluorescent glow makes it easy to track.
Furthermore, spirulina appears to be toxic to cancer cells. In a laboratory experiment, about 90% of cancer cells were destroyed after tumour cells were exposed to the spirulina for 48 hours.
The algae robots have so far only been used in the stomachs of rats, and rigorous testing is needed to check that they degrade without causing harm to the human body.