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Cell-free Synthetic Biology for Behavior Modules in Microrobots

Wei, Ting-Yen (2022) Cell-free Synthetic Biology for Behavior Modules in Microrobots. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Autonomous biohybrid microrobots with unique features and functions are an emerging technology in biomedical applications. The miniaturized size enables them to access previously unreachable parts throughout the human body, offering localized diagnosis and treatment with greater precision and efficiency. However, autonomous capabilities such as perception-action and communication remain a challenge for robots at a small scale.
By repurposing and reprogramming molecular modules, synthetic biology has constructed autonomous capabilities in living organisms. Cell-free synthetic biology has emerged as a programmable and rapid tool for implementing and characterizing synthetic genetic circuits. Here, we present a cell-free synthetic biology platform to build onboard behavior modules on microrobots. Leveraging the capability of synthetic biology and the cell-free platform for creating complex behaviors, microrobots could acquire the ability to sense, analyze, and respond to complex environments based on designed genetic circuits.
First, we developed a user-friendly microfluidic device to characterize microrobot behaviors demonstrated by fluorescent output, a widely adopted parameter for evaluating genetic circuit performance. Cell-free reactions are frequently quantitatively characterized by plate readers that cannot provide visualization. Microfluidic technology has facilitated cell-free synthetic biology development, but has focused mainly on experiment automation instead of rapid characterization. Such microfluidic systems involve exquisite manipulation and operation, hindering widespread adoption. Hence, we present the design of a robust yet straightforward microfluidic device for rapid cell-free synthetic biology characterization that can be used to characterize the reported biohybrid microrobots.
Next, biohybrid microrobots equipped with basic Boolean logic gates demonstrated the implementation of perception-action modules with the reported cell-free platform. Furthermore, the reported platform enables microrobots to communicate and perform collective behaviors. Biochemical information carriers were exchanged among microrobots and coordinated collective behaviors to analyze multiple inputs and generate responses according to designed logic circuits. This work opens up an opportunity to build autonomous miniaturized clinical tools with potential use in the human body for precise and efficient diagnosis and treatment.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wei, Ting-Yentiw56@pitt.edutiw560000-0002-1510-8183
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRuder, Warrenwarrenr@pitt.eduwarrenr0000-0003-0745-9933
Committee MemberEbrahimkhani, Momo.ebr@pitt.edumo.ebr
Committee MemberMiskov- Zivanov, Natasanmzivanov@pitt.edunmzivanov0000-0003-1110-3403
Committee MemberChilders, W. Sethwschild@pitt.eduwschild0000-0003-1160-7767
Date: 6 September 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 26 May 2022
Approval Date: 6 September 2022
Submission Date: 3 June 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 119
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Bioengineering
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Robot intelligence, synthetic biology, molecular robotics, microrobotics, cell-free, microfluidic
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2022 16:06
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2022 16:06


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