Controlling a microscopic robot inside the body. Promising first test results
For the first time ever, scientists tested the control of a tiny robot that moved in the large intestine - the longest part of the large intestine. Such an innovation could be in the future Diagnostics and Drug delivery be widespread. The scientists have chosen a completely new approach. The little robot is equipped with a magnet so that it can be controlled with the help of an electromagnetic field that is outside the patient's body. Although it is only the initial stage of testing, the results are very promising. The research was in the journal Micromachines published. https://doi.org/10.3390/mi11090861
Research on the mobility of a tiny robot conducted by scientists at Purdue University has shown that it can be navigated through unpredictable body landscapes. The device has been successfully tested in a variety of humidity conditions, on many types of surfaces, and in complex three-dimensional systems. - When we apply an external magnetic field to these robots, they turn and move, "says engineer David Cappelleri of Purdue University. - The magnetic field penetrates safely into the body, which is important for the application of similar solutions to humans", adds the researcher.
Navigation through the colon
Microscopic robots have no batteries. Your systems are powered by the same magnetic field that controls the device. Thanks to the use of ultrasound, the research team proved that the robot can move in different directions in the intestine, using mice that were under anesthesia for the tests. The Robot were introduced into the carcass through the large intestine. It was a conscious decision made by the researchers, who wanted to make sure their device would not be stopped by digested food residues. On a short film (see above) you can see how the microscopic robot moves: - Moving the robot around the colon is like using a luggage cart at the airport. That way we can get to the terminal faster, "says engineer Luis Solorio from Purdue University. - It's not just you who move, but also the people around you. In the colon there are various liquids and organic materials that the robot can use It is not an easy journey, he adds.
A small robot, big challenges
A small robot faced a major challenge that it could master. Scientists did not record the negative effects of the digested food on the operation of the device. After its work was done, the robot naturally disappeared from the body through defecation. The researchers also tested the robot's ability to deliver various substances to the body. For this purpose, a vial with physiological salt and fluorescent paint was mounted on it. Of the Microbot gradually released doses of fluid that penetrated the body. The scientists hope that it will soon be possible to administer drugs in this way instead of physiological salt. Scientists admit that it will be a long time before their little robot is widely used. You will send multiple robots to the colon at the same time - From a diagnostic point of view, these robots could replace modern colonoscopy in the future. They will also be able to collect tissues, "says Purdue University engineer Craig Goergen. - Before that happens, the robots can help gather the necessary data before doing a colonoscopy," he adds.