Mobile microrobots hold remarkable potential to revolutionize health care by enabling unprecedented active medical interventions and theranostics, such as active cargo delivery and microsurgical manipulations in hard-to-reach body sites. High-resolution imaging and control of cell-sized microrobots in the in vivo vascular system remains an unsolved challenge toward their clinical use. To overcome this limitation, we propose noninvasive real-time detection and tracking of circulating microrobots using optoacoustic imaging. We devised cell-sized nickel-based spherical Janus magnetic microrobots whose near-infrared optoacoustic signature is enhanced via gold conjugation. The 5-, 10-, and 20-μm-diameter microrobots are detected volumetrically both in bloodless ex vivo tissues and under real-life conditions with a strongly light-absorbing blood background. We further demonstrate real-time three-dimensional tracking and magnetic manipulation of the microrobots circulating in murine cerebral vasculature, thus paving the way toward effective and safe operation of cell-sized microrobots in challenging and clinically relevant intravascular environments.

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