Johns Hopkins researchers have devised a self-assembling cube-shaped perforated container, no larger than a dust speck, that could serve as a delivery system for medications and cell therapy.

The relatively inexpensive microcontainers can be mass-produced through a process that mixes electronic chip-making techniques with basic chemistry. Because of their metallic nature, the cubic container’s location in the body could easily be tracked by magnetic resonance imaging.

The method of making these self-assembling containers and the results of successful lab tests involving the cubes were reported in a paper published in the December 2005 issue of the journal Biomedical Microdevices. In the tests, the hollow cubes housed and then dispensed microbeads and live cells commonly used in medical treatment.

“Our group has developed a new process for fabricating three-dimensional micropatterned containers for cell encapsulation and drug delivery,” said David H. Gracias, who led the lab team. “We’re talking about an entirely new encapsulation and delivery device that could lead to a new generation of ‘smart pills.’ The long-term goal is to be able to implant a collection of these therapeutic containers directly at the site or an injury or an illness.”

The researchers are now refining the microdevices so that they have nanoporous surfaces. Gimi, whose research focuses on magnetic resonance microimaging of cell function, envisions the use of nanoporous devices for cell encapsulation in hormonal therapy. He also envisions biosensors mounted on these devices for non-invasive signal detection.

Yes, this falls into the category of Ray Kurzweil medicine. And, hopefully, will provide another step forward in medical therapies.



  1. Rob says:

    Ok! THIS is cool…….

    Kinda like those self assembling robot blocks you posted here a few weeks back.

    I STILL think we need to make micro sized Los Angelas class attack subs to go after AIDS cells.

  2. jasontheodd says:

    This has got to be one of the cooler medical stories going around now (I work in health care.) The other one that goes around the building I work in, are the radio and laser controlled surgical robots. So surgery can be performed remotely. Everybody sees the obvious use of this by NASA and its counterparts around the globe. But it really could be a way for emergency surgery to be performed on a ship at sea if there were no surgical team on board. In ten years it will probably be standard for cruise ships to have one of these radio doctors in the event the ships doctor is unavailable in an emergency.

  3. Mike Voice says:

    “Because of their metallic nature, the cubic container’s location in the body could easily be tracked by magnetic resonance imaging.”

    I thought the idea was to avoid having metallic objects in an MRI field…


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