Research to design drugs and treat complicated medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease or cancer is one of the most promising fields in medicine, and millibots They are your secret weapon.
About the size of a fingertip, these robots can crawl, turn and swim in tight spaces, investigate the internal functioning of an organism or dispense medicines, two key aspects of their function.
Engineers at Stanford University develop milli-robots of this type, and Renee Zhao is one of the best known. She currently works on various designs, like the magnetic crawling robot that made its way through a stomach and that recently made the cover of Science Advances.
LOOK: Driverless taxis are now a reality in San Francisco
Powered by magnetic fields – which allow them to continuously move, twist and change shape – their robots can self-select different states of locomotion and overcome obstacles in the body.
By simply changing the strength and orientation of the magnetic field, Zhao’s team can make the robot navigate the body or, in a single jump, travel a distance ten times its size.
In addition, the magnetic drive also allows it to be controlled non-invasively and to have a tiny size.
Today, in an article published in Nature Communications, Zhao reports on his latest creation, “the most robust and multifunctional we have ever developed”, a wireless origami amphibious millirobot that spins and can quickly navigate the slippery, uneven surfaces of an organ and swim through bodily fluidspropelling while transporting liquid medications.
And unlike pills that are swallowed or liquids that are injected, this robot holds the drug until it “reaches the target and then it releases a highly concentrated drug. This is how our robot achieves targeted drug delivery,” explains Zhao.
LOOK: Human skin for robots, the scientific advance that would seek to cover humanoids
What is innovative about this amphibious robot, according to Zhao, is that it goes beyond the designs of most origami-based robots (with an accordion-like shape), which only use its ability to fold and stretch to control how the robot transforms and moves.
Your robot is much more functional, thanks to a unique structure, and less invasive for the medical procedure, since it combines geometric characteristics that reduce resistance to water and help you swim better.
With the help of the Stanford Department of Medicine, Zhao’s lab is studying how to improve current treatments and procedures by creating new technologies.
The goal is for your robots to not only can they dispense medicines effectively, but also can be used to carry instruments or cameras inside the body and help doctors examine patients.
LOOK: CyberDog, the robot dog that walked through Lima without a leash or muzzle
The team is also working on using ultrasound images to track the robots, eliminating the need to cut open organs.
Though we won’t see milli-robots like Zhao’s in real healthcare environments until they are more developedhis amphibious robot is one of the most advanced.
It is currently in the testing phases that precede any live animal trials prior to human clinical trials.
While, Zhao’s team continues to combine various novel smart materials and structures into unique designs which ultimately form new biomedical devices.
It also plans to further downsize its robots to advance microscale biomedical research.