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Micromachines 2018, 9(2), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/mi9020063

The Fantastic Voyage of the Trypanosome: A Protean Micromachine Perfected during 500 Million Years of Engineering

Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Würzburg, Biocentre, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany
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Received: 17 January 2018 / Revised: 30 January 2018 / Accepted: 1 February 2018 / Published: 2 February 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Locomotion at Small Scales: From Biology to Artificial Systems)
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Abstract

The human body is constantly attacked by pathogens. Various lines of defence have evolved, among which the immune system is principal. In contrast to most pathogens, the African trypanosomes thrive freely in the blood circulation, where they escape immune destruction by antigenic variation and incessant motility. These unicellular parasites are flagellate microswimmers that also withstand the harsh mechanical forces prevailing in the bloodstream. They undergo complex developmental cycles in the bloodstream and organs of the mammalian host, as well as the disease-transmitting tsetse fly. Each life cycle stage has been shaped by evolution for manoeuvring in distinct microenvironments. Here, we introduce trypanosomes as blueprints for nature-inspired design of trypanobots, micromachines that, in the future, could explore the human body without affecting its physiology. We review cell biological and biophysical aspects of trypanosome motion. While this could provide a basis for the engineering of microbots, their actuation and control still appear more like fiction than science. Here, we discuss potentials and challenges of trypanosome-inspired microswimmer robots. View Full-Text
Keywords: trypanosoma; microswimmer; parasite; flagellate; microenvironment; tsetse; cellular waveform; microbot; trypanobot trypanosoma; microswimmer; parasite; flagellate; microenvironment; tsetse; cellular waveform; microbot; trypanobot
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Krüger, T.; Engstler, M. The Fantastic Voyage of the Trypanosome: A Protean Micromachine Perfected during 500 Million Years of Engineering. Micromachines 2018, 9, 63.

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