It may not be long before your doctor wants to put a miniature robot inside of you.
Medicine has evolved in countless ways throughout human history, and a new study from researchers in Switzerland all but confirms that we are on the verge of another huge leap forward. According to a report from STGIST, scientists working with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have developed amazing new miniature robots designed to enter the human body and deliver targeted medicines and procedures to treat a wide range of diseases.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that tiny robots navigating our bloodstreams loaded with small doses of medicines or programmed to aid in operations may soon exit the realm of science fiction and become a useful component of modern medicine. Researcher Selman Sakar of EPFL says the methods for building these microbots were inspired by the African trypanosomiasis parasite and could make a huge difference in a number of procedures.
Unlike the rigid, metal form of the robots of our imaginations, these medical microbots are soft, flexible, and propelled throughout the body by an electromagnetic field. Researchers have developed the miniature robots using biocompatible hydrogel and magnetic nanoparticles that help them maintain their shape and navigate the human body.
The team arranged nanoparticles between layers of the biocompatible hydrogel, orienting them using an electromagnetic field. Then, a polymerization step helps make the hydrogel into a solid. The robot is placed underwater where it folds to reach its final shape.
The method laid out in the study has huge implications for the field of medicine. Researchers around the world are working on developing more advanced microbots that can carry out a growing list of functions once they’re inside the body. Researchers acknowledge that the technology is still in its infancy and further studies will be required to determine the safety and potential side effects of putting microbots inside a person’s bloodstream, but the study represents an exciting step forward.