Biohybrid robotics combines engineered artificial structures and living bio-systems.
Biobots that could be injected into a patient’s bloodstream and destroy a blood clot or cancer would require sensing, computation and actuation. Living cells have an advantage over synthetic microswimmers in their ability to detect and respond to environmental stimuli without additional components. Bacteria and algae can be steered using their attraction to light, which is not possible in deep tissues of the body. Magnetic control is one possibility for medical applications since magnetic fieldsmagnetic fields can safely penetrate the body. Magnetotactic bacteria naturally have magnetic nanocrystals and other living cells could be artificially magnetized if embedded with iron oxide nanoparticles or by attaching them to magnetic substrates. Chemicals can also control cell behavior. Biohybrid devices could respond to biochemical signals released from tumor cells. Thermotaxis and aerotaxis are also possible ways to steer microorganism-based biohybrid robots.
Beating cells from a rat (ventricular cardiomyocytes) were first placed on poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) thin films in 2007 by WhitesidesWhitesides and ParkerParker. This work defined a biohybrid soft robotic device as a hybrid device which has a soft body and where the actuation is performed by a living biological part. Soft biohybrid robots go beyond replication of nature, but seek to fulfill tasks that neither nature nor physical robots can achieve.