Technology is increasingly present in the world of medicine and over the years projects have been presented that will revolutionize the sector, such as Injectable microrobots that change shape and could repair broken bones until sensors that monitor the heart and are already implanted in Spain. Now it is the pads that have their days numbered, since some engineers have manufactured robots that swim inside the human body and administer medicine.
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Medicines cure many ailments and are essential for human survival, although they are not always designed to treat precise pain points or specific areas affected by serious conditions. However, a team of researchers from Stanford University in the United States has developed a new way to improve the delivery of drugs to treat diseases such as cancer or those that affect the heart and blood vessels.
Led by Renee Zhao, an American academic mechanical engineer, the researchers fabricated tiny finger-sized robots who are about to become the future saviors of medicine. Devices that crawl, rotate and swim to enter confined spaces in the human body for research or drug delivery purposes.
Zhao and his team made certain microrobots powered by magnetic fields so that they move inside the body of the patient who needs to be medicated. It is not the first time that magnetism has been used for robots in medicine, since they have already been known others who have used the magnetic component to retract the colon and deliver medication.
In this case, changes in the magnetic field, in direction and intensity, allow microrobots to jump distances ten times greater than the robot itself, as reported in the study published in the journal Nature. The system also allows them to select how to move and avoid any obstacles in the way.
Microrobots have been designed to move quickly over slippery and uneven surfaces of an organ, and swim in bodily fluids, propelling themselves wirelessly while carrying liquid medicine. A key aspect of the research is that magnetic actuation also provides self-contained control for non-invasive operation and separates the control unit from the device to enable miniaturization.
“This amphibious, wireless, rotating origami microbot is the toughest and most multifunctional we have ever developed,” confirmed Renee Zhao. Unlike pills that are swallowed or liquids that are injected, these robots withhold the drug until they reach the target and “then they release a highly concentrated drug. That’s how they manage to deliver the drug to the exact spot.”
Renee Zhao said what’s really innovative about these microrobots is that they go beyond the designs of most origami-based robots, which only use the ability to bend to control how they transform and move. In this case, the researchers considered how the dimensions of the exact shape of each fold influence the movement rigid part of the robot when it is not folded up.
As a result, the unfolded form of these microrobots inherently lends itself to propulsion in the environment, which allowed the researchers to make the most of the materials without increasing the size of the robots. Also, due to their geometric design as they have a hole in the center and side slits slanted to the sides, these tiny machines endure less resistance to liquids while swimming.
“This design induces negative pressure on the robot to swim fast, and meanwhile, Provides suction for picking up and carrying the load. We take full advantage of the geometric characteristics of this small robot and explore this unique structure for different applications and functions,” explained the engineer.
These microrobots are currently in the testing phase, and researchers continue to refine their design, even planning to reduce their size. The team is also working on the use ultrasound images to track where robots are goingeliminating any need to open the organs.
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In a future, This technology could make pills disappear and provide a convenient new way to efficiently deliver drugs to treat serious diseases, such as cancer. It could even be used to bring instruments or cameras into the human body for medical examinations.