Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Micro- and nanorobots for biomedical applications in the brain

Micro- and nanorobots hold great potential to overcome brain barriers for the treatment of brain diseases. They can be delivered to the brain by local injection, intranasal application, or systemic administration. Combining active propulsion with biological and chemical approaches or external physical stimuli can improve brain targeting.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Strategies to introduce micro- and nanorobots into the brain for drug and cell delivery.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Li, J., de Ávila, B. E.-F., Gao, W., Zhang, L. & Wang, J. Micro/nanorobots for biomedicine: delivery, surgery, sensing, and detoxification. Sci. Robot. 2, eaam6431 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Zhang, F. et al. Nanoparticle-modified microrobots for in vivo antibiotic delivery to treat acute bacterial pneumonia. Nat. Mater. 21, 1324–1332 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Nance, E., Pun, S. H., Saigal, R. & Sellers, D. L. Drug delivery to the central nervous system. Nat. Rev. Mater. 7, 314–331 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Joseph, A. et al. Chemotactic synthetic vesicles: design and applications in blood-brain barrier crossing. Sci. Adv. 3, e1700362 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Zhang, H. et al. Dual-responsive biohybrid neutrobots for active target delivery. Sci. Robot. 6, 9519eaaz (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Wang, S. et al. Hydrogen‐powered microswimmers for precise and active hydrogen therapy towards acute Ischemic stroke. Adv. Funct. Mater. 31, 2009475 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Jeon, S. et al. Magnetically actuated microrobots as a platform for stem cell transplantation. Sci. Robot. 4, eaav4317 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Jeon, S. et al. A magnetically powered stem cell-based microrobot for minimally invasive stem cell delivery via the intranasal pathway in a mouse brain. Adv. Healthc. Mater. 10, e2100801 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Liu, L. et al. Control the neural stem cell fate with biohybrid piezoelectrical magnetite micromotors. Nano Lett. 21, 3518–3526 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Wu, T. et al. A photon-driven micromotor can direct nerve fibre growth. Nat. Photon. 6, 62–67 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Wrede, P. et al. Real-time 3D optoacoustic tracking of cell-sized magnetic microrobots circulating in the mouse brain vasculature. Sci. Adv. 8, eabm9132 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported by National Science Foundation grant 1931214. We thank H. Han, J. Seong and J. Joo for the valuable inputs.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wei Gao.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Yoo, J., Tang, S. & Gao, W. Micro- and nanorobots for biomedical applications in the brain. Nat Rev Bioeng 1, 308–310 (2023).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing