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Cellular expression through morphogen delivery by light activated magnetic microrobots


Microrobots have many potential uses in microbiology since they can be remotely actuated and precisely manipulated in biochemical fluids. Cellular function and response depends on biochemicals. Therefore, various delivery methods have been developed for delivering biologically relevant cargo using microrobots. However, localized targeting without payload leakage during transport is challenging. Here, we design a microrobotic platform capable of on-demand delivery of signaling molecules in biological systems. The on-demand delivery method is based on a light-responsive photolabile linker which releases a cell-to-cell signaling molecule when exposed to light, integrated on the surface of microrobots. Successful delivery of the signaling molecules and subsequent gene regulation is also demonstrated. This proposed method can be used for multiple applications, especially in biology, engineering, and medicine where on-demand delivery of chemical cargo at targeted locations is important.

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    This paper is an invited extended version of [7] from the MARSS conference. The synthesis of the photocleavable linker, integration of the cylindrical microrobots with the linker, and protein expression in bacterial cells are the same as that paper, while we have added further data on the dose response of the signaling molecule in the cells. We have also demonstrated cellular response using directed microrobots and extended the microrobot type to helical microrobots, which will be used for further extension of the work in the future.


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We gratefully acknowledge the support of ONR grant N00014-11-1-0725, NSF grant CNS-1446474 and NSF grant CNS-1446592. E.E.H. was supported by NSF Graduate Research Fellowship grant DGE-1845298

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Correspondence to Sambeeta Das.

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Das, S., Hunter, E.E., DeLateur, N.A. et al. Cellular expression through morphogen delivery by light activated magnetic microrobots. J Micro-Bio Robot 15, 79–90 (2019).

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  • Microrobots
  • Magnetic
  • Synthetic biology