Prof. Sunghoon Kwon, What the world’s tiniest robot says about your health? (Donga Science, 20180705)

2018-07-11l Hit 29

[In-depth] What does the world’s tiniest robot say about your health?

Professor Sunghoon Kwon of SNU Electrical and Computer Engineering is an expert in the field of mictoelectromechanical systems (MEMS), extra fine machines of nanometer(nm, 1nm is one billionth of one meter) units. However, his technology is being applied more in medical field technology. For instance, the rapid drug susceptibility test technology he developed is used to diagnose urgent sepsis patients whose life could be seriously threatened with delayed diagnosis and treatment.

He combined optics, which handles light, to MEMS technology in order to develop the drug test technology. He commercialized and supplied this for use in university hospitals. The test time, which used to be over 40 hours, was shortened to 6 hours, and more than 130 domestic and international patents were declared. This is currently used for human papilloma virus and tuberculosis diagnosis.

He was also the first in Asia to develop and afterwards commercialize technology that deciphers base sequences by synthesizing DNA and capturing the cancer gene. The method applied uses lasers to separate cancer cells one by one and reads them after genome amplification. Acknowledged for such contribution, he received ‘the 22nd NAEK(The National Academy of Engineering of Korea) Young Engineers Award’ this March.

The team of Senior Researcher In-San Kim of Korea Institute of Science and Technology(KIST) Center of Theragnosis developed a nanoparticle that heightens the activation of immunocytes in the body. When this material, named ROCK inhibitor, was inserted along with preexistent anticancer drugs, the activity of denditric cells, a type of immunocyte, increased and up to 90% of colorectal cancer and melanoma was eliminated. The research results were announced in the June edition of Nature Communications.

Furthermore, Doctor Kim developed a particle called FHSIRPα-dox, which was injected in animal veins and confirmed to actually diminish cancer. He announced this in January, through ‘Advanced Materials’. This nanoparticle is derived from nano endoplasmic reticulum within the human body. It helps immunocytes by activating the production of protein that blocks the function of cancer cells to evade immuncytes. Last December, Doctor Kim’s team developed a nanomaterial that pierces and decomposes the extracellular matrix, a sort of blockade created by the cancer cell. This material, called ‘hyaluronidase exosome’, is a combination of human enzymes and exosome, an extracellular pocket-like vesicle. In an experiment with mice with actual tumor, the protection shield of the cancer cell was decomposed and the anti-cancer drug could deeply penetrate the cancer cell.

The progress of nanotechnology in the medical field is spectacular. Nano unit machines, or MEMS, nano drug carriers that contain and transport drugs, and nanorobots or microrobots that swim in the fluid and deliver to desired cell regions are being researched. ‘Nano-lantern’, which reaches into parts of the human body that cannot be seen with the naked eye and brightens these regions, is also a typical example of nanomedicine.

Five nanomedical technologies currently worked on by scientists and engineers were selected for introduction.

1.Cancer base sequence deciphering and diagnosing instrument using microelectromechanical system

Sunghoon Kwon, Professor of the Dept. of ECE at SNU, developed the Rapid Drug Susceptibility Test using microelectromechanical systems(MEMS), an extra fine machine in nanometer(nm, 1nm is one billionth of a meter) units. It diagnoses urgent sepsis patients. He shortened the test time from over 40 hours to 6 hours and applied for over 130 domestic and international patents. This is currently being utilized to diagnose human papilloma virus and tuberculosis in university hospitals.

2.‘Nanomedicine inside me’ Nanomedicine for cancer
Senior Researcher In-San Kim of Korea Institute of Science and Technology(KIST) Center of Theragnosis developed a nanoparticle that heightens the activity of immunocytes in the body. When this material, named ROCK inhibitor, was injected along with preexistent anti-cancer drugs, it heightened the activity of dendritic cells, a type of immunoctye, and up to 90% of colorectal cancer and melanoma was eliminated. The research outcome was announced in the June edition of Nature Communications.

3.Drug transporting capsule-form microrobot
Hongsoo Choi, Professor of Robotics at DGIST, developed a capsule-form micro robot with a propulsion function that emulates the movement of bacteria. This was announced as the cover paper in the ‘Advanced Healthcare Materials’ May edition. With three-dimensional laser lithography, which is a sort of microelectromechanical system(MEMS) technology, he created a three-dimensional corkscrew-like polymer structure. Then, he covered this with Titanium and Nickel and created a lid, thus creating a capsule-form robot of micrometer dimensions. He revealed the fact that cells could be enclosed and sent to a desired location. MinJun Kim, chair professor of Southern Methodist University School of Engineering, used flagella, which corresponds to a microbe’s tail, to create a nanorobot that is capable of velocity as well as direction control.

4.Nano-micro robot created with 3D printer
Junyang Li’s Hong Kong Polytechnic University Mechanical and Biomedical Engineerng research team created an extra fine three-dimensional structure. The structure is shaped like a soccer ball of tens of micrometers in dimension with an empty inside and cones here and there on the surface. Although it cannot perform detailed motions such as moving a joint, thanks to the metal coating, its location can be controlled externally with a magnetic field. Without doing any harm to the body, it can move through veins and deliver cells at the exact location of choice. This is anticipated to be applied in regenerative medicine, where stem cells are used.

5.DNA nanorobot arm controlled with electric field
Germany’s Munich Engineering University research team of Enzo Kopperger developed a 25nm long robot arm using the tendency of DNA to assembly on its own under particular conditions. This was announced through the January edition of Science. The team succeeded in securing one end of the robot arm and using electric field to create circular rotating motion. This can be manipulated with a computer, and the operational time is fast, recording a thousandth of a second. This is ten thousandth the time record of previous technology, which required ten seconds to operate.

Translated by: Jee Hyun Lee, English Editor of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,