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.
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