A red blood cell-derived bionic microrobot capable of hierarchically adapting to five critical stages in systemic drug delivery

This research develops an “all-in-one” red blood cell-derived microrobot capable of stably circulating in blood vessels, targeting tumour regions under magnetic guidance, releasing therapeutic cargoes upon laser trigger, and facilitating drug penetration by damaging extracellular matrix in tumour tissues. This system addresses critical challenges during systemic drug delivery and represents a new class of intelligent biomimicking robots for biomedical applications.


The tumour-targeting efficiency of systemically delivered chemodrugs largely dictates the therapeutic outcome of anticancer treatment. Major challenges lie in the complexity of diverse biological barriers that drug delivery systems must hierarchically overcome to reach their cellular/subcellular targets. Herein, an “all-in-one” red blood cell (RBC)-derived microrobot that can hierarchically adapt to five critical stages during systemic drug delivery, that is, circulation, accumulation, release, extravasation, and penetration, is developed. The microrobots behave like natural RBCs in blood circulation, due to their almost identical surface properties, but can be magnetically manipulated to accumulate at regions of interest such as tumours. Next, the microrobots are “immolated” under laser irradiation to release their therapeutic cargoes and, by generating heat, to enhance drug extravasation through vascular barriers. As a coloaded agent, pirfenidone (PFD) can inhibit the formation of extracellular matrix and increase the penetration depth of chemodrugs in the solid tumour. It is demonstrated that this system effectively suppresses both primary and metastatic tumours in mouse models without evident side effects, and may represent a new class of intelligent biomimicking robots for biomedical applications.

Author list:

Ya-Xuan Zhu, Hao-Ran Jia*, Yao-Wen Jiang, Yuxin Guo, Qiu-Yi Duan, Ke-Fei Xu, Bai-Hui Shan, Xiaoyang Liu, Xiaokai Chen, Fu-Gen Wu*

How to cite:

Y.-X. Zhu, H.-R. Jia, Y.-W. Jiang, Y. Guo, Q.-Y. Duan, K.-F. Xu, B.-H. Shan, X. Liu, X. Chen, F.-G. Wu, Exploration 2023, 4, 20230105.