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Cell-inspired particle-based intelligent microrobots

Project description

Cell-inspired microrobots

Microrobots have immense potential to be used for non-invasive medical procedures and drug delivery purposes. However, their limited functionalities and inability to move effectively in bodily fluids and tissues impede their applications. To overcome these limitations, the EU-funded CELLOIDS project proposes to develop innovative microrobots inspired by immune cells that naturally move through body tissues by changing their shape. These cell-inspired microrobots, or 'celloids', will contain self-propelled particles that will allow them to autonomously navigate soft tissue-like environments. Celloids' applications will range from targeted delivery to studying the migration of immune and cancer cells.


Microscale robotic devices, or microrobots, could someday enable revolutionary non-invasive medical procedures. However, fundamental limitations still hinder the realisation of this vision. Current microrobots have very limited functionalities: they strongly rely on wireless operation by external fields, which impedes the execution of sophisticated movements and tasks. As a consequence, despite their intended medical use, microrobots cannot move effectively in bodily fluids and tissues. This project addresses exactly this challenge: realising self-contained microrobots that autonomously move in complex 3D biological environments (such as soft body tissues).
Our sources of inspiration are biological cells that naturally move through body tissues, such as immune cells. These cells move by continuously changing their shape, a strategy known as ‘amoeboid movement’. Such shape changes are powered by the self-organized flows and stresses of their intracellular filaments and motor proteins. Analogously, we will realise microrobots that each consist of a swarm of active particles: each microrobot will have a liquid body containing self-propelled particles and different sensitive particles; moreover, the particles swarm will be engineered to exhibit desired collective behaviours. These cell-inspired particle-based microrobots, or celloids, will spontaneously adapt their morphology, generate large body-shape changes, sense environmental cues and control signals, and autonomously navigate soft tissue-like environments.
This project will establish a radically new method to design microrobots, and will result in microrobots capable of autonomous navigation of body tissues. The celloids will also constitute a robophysical model for studying the migration of immune and cancer cells, and will enable a number of revolutionary medical procedures, including long-term monitoring and non-invasive interventions in delicate organs (e.g. brain).


Net EU contribution
€ 1 499 375,00
Piazza martiri della liberta 33
56127 Pisa

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Centro (IT) Toscana Pisa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)