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Tiny robots developed by IISc Bangalore scientists

Tiny robots developed by IISc Bangalore scientists
Tiny robots developed by IISc Bangalore scientists

Nano-sized robots manipulated using a magnetic field can help kill bacteria deep inside the teeth, and boost the success of root canal treatments, according to a study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru. Root canal treatments are routinely carried out to treat tooth infections in millions of patients. The procedure involves removing the infected soft tissue inside the tooth, called the pulp, and flushing the tooth with antibiotics or chemicals to kill the bacteria that cause the infection. However, many times, the treatment fails to completely remove all the bacteria -- especially antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as Enterococcus faecalis -- which remain hidden inside microscopic canals in the tooth called dentinal tubules.

In the study published in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials, the researchers designed helical nanobots made of silicon dioxide coated with iron, which can be controlled using a device that generates a low intensity magnetic field. These nanobots were then injected into extracted tooth samples and their movement was tracked using a microscope. By tweaking the frequency of the magnetic field, the researchers were able to make the nanobots move at will, and penetrate deep inside the dentinal tubules.

Previously, scientists have used ultrasound or laser pulses to create shockwaves in the fluid used to flush out bacteria and tissue debris, in order to improve the efficiency of root canal treatment. However, these pulses can only penetrate up to a distance of 800 micrometers, and their energy dissipates fast. The nanobots were able to penetrate much further -- up to 2,000 micrometers. Using heat to kill the bacteria also provides a safer alternative to harsh chemicals or antibiotics, the researchers said. They tested the dental nanobots in mice models and found them to be safe and effective.

The researchers are also working on developing a new kind of medical device that can easily fit inside the mouth, and allow the dentist to inject and manipulate the nanobots inside the teeth during root canal treatment. "We are very close to deploying this technology in a clinical setting, which was considered futuristic even three years ago. It is a joy to see how a simple scientific curiosity is shaping into a medical intervention that can impact millions of people in India alone,” Ambarish Ghosh, Professor at CeNSE added.

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Published date : 16 May 2022 06:16PM

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