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Project presentation

​MaTher is a winning project of the 2018 international call of the A*Midex Initiative of Excellence led by Aix-Marseille University. It aims to provide a proof of concept for the use of functionalized magnetotactic bacteria capable of shuttling in a liquid medium to deliver drugs or depollutants.

Published on 11 March 2020


Microorganisms navigate in complex environments and this ability is needed for drug delivery applications. Microorganisms are thus directly used or serve as a source of inspiration for the design of medical robots.

One such swimmer are the magnetotactic bacteria. These cells intracellularly form magnetic particles called magnetosomes, which can be used to direct the cellular movement or for the imaging with e.g. MRI machines. The biotechnological potential of these cells is emerging. However, these applications rely on difficult functionalization with low yield that hamper their development. We propose here strategies to reach the full potential of microswimmers.

We first plan to reuse functionalized bacteria as delivery tools. A microorganism-based cargo will be equipped with a photoswitchable dye such that a drug will be fixed at a loading station, transported, and delivered at a targeted point. The empty cargo will swim back to the loading station for further rounds of work.

Second, we propose to design nanosized-swimmers based on isolated magnetosomes to target smallest area. The nanoparticles indeed provide unique advantages for the fabrication of self-propelled particles: their magnetic properties for guidance and imaging; their lipid membrane them for functionalization with catalysing enzymes to be used for propulsion. Swimmers and process design will be optimized using computer simulations.