What is a Microbivore? (with photos)

A microbivore consists of 610 billion precisely arranged structural atoms, with about 150 billion water molecules.

A microbivore is a speculative future device, a micro-machine with various internal nanomachines, which would function as an artificial white blood cell, or phagocyte. Although a detailed design for a microbivore was outlined by its inventor, Robert Freitas, we currently do not have the means to manufacture one.

Including moving parts as small as 150 nanometers, manufacturing a microbivore would likely require atom-by-atom fabrication based on mechanosynthesis. “Mechanosynthesis” refers to chemical reactions orchestrated by the specific programmed movements of nanoscale robotic arms. This manufacturing technology was called molecular nanotechnology by its primary creator, Dr. Eric Drexler. Some futurists anticipate the development of molecular nanotechnology in the time frame of 2020-2030.

Patients with low blood pressure due to sepsis are often given fluids to increase blood volume.

The medical need for a microbivore is obvious – there are numerous pathologies that involve the presence of foreign organisms in the bloodstream. Collectively they are called sepsis, with approximately 1.5 million annual cases and approximately 0.5 million annual deaths worldwide. Foreign infections in the bloodstream are especially dangerous for immunocompromised individuals, such as those with AIDS. Many of the current therapies are rudimentary and only stop the growth of foreign organisms in the bloodstream, rather than eliminating them entirely. Many doctors would welcome a synthetic device capable of performing search-and-destroy missions on such microbes.

Strange infections in the bloodstream are especially dangerous.

The microbivore is a flat spheroid-shaped device, 3.4 microns long and 2.0 microns wide. A micron is one millionth of a meter, similar in size to most eukaryotic cells. A microbivore would consist of 610 billion precisely arranged structural atoms, with about 150 billion molecules of gas or water when in operation. To ensure high reliability, the design includes ten times greater redundancy for most internal mechanisms except for the largest structural elements.

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Like natural phagocytes, the microbivore would use a “digestion and flush” protocol to gobble up enough bacteria, fungi, and viruses unfortunate enough to cross its path. Covered with species-specific reversible binding sites, the offending microbes would stick to the surface of the microbivore. The device would then extend tiny nanorobotic manipulators, attach them to the microbe, and then direct them to an ingestion port, similar to a squid wrapping its tentacles around prey and then pushing it into its mouth. After entering the ingestion port, the target microbe would be mixed using mechanical chopping blades and then passed to a digestion chamber where specifically selected enzymes would break the target into biologically inactive effluent, then release it into the bloodstream.

Microbivores would be given intravenously and could be directed to leave the bloodstream through the intestines when desired. Initial estimates suggest that microbivores would be about 1000 times faster acting and 80 times more efficient than natural white blood cells.

The mass manufacturing and therapeutic use of microbivores could revolutionize medicine. Unless there are unforeseen and insurmountable challenges, many people living today can benefit from microbivore-based therapies. Many diseases could be cured, only if the body’s natural defenses could receive some outside help.

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