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article imageMini-robots being trialed to test out medical procedures

By Tim Sandle     Aug 1, 2016 in Science
To deliver drugs within the human body and for precise surgery, micro-sized robots are being considered. One of the research centers developing robotic devices is Drexel University.
As a key advancement researchers have shown that by using a magnetic field multiple chains of microscopic magnetic bead-based robots can be manipulated. This includes joining the min-robots together so they can move, at speed, through bodily fluids. This proof-of-concept research lays down the foundations for using so-called micro-swimmers to perform surgery in hard to reach places in the human body or to deliver medicines. Targeted drug delivery is used for the treatment of conditions like cancer.
One problem with anti-cancer drugs is that they are seen as ‘foreign’ material and can be attacked by the body’s immune system. Delivering drugs more rapidly to the site of concern is a way to avoid this. The use of micro-robots offers a means to protect medicines.
On social media, Mickey Dangerez (@MickeyDangerez) tweeted: "Microswimmer robot chains can decouple and reconnect in magnetic field #PhysOrg Drexel University researchers..."
The robots move effectively via the links between them linking and unlinking together, under the influence of the magnetic field, in order to create propulsion. The remarkable robots possess the ability to split apart, operate individually, and then link back together.
The trials showed that longer chains of robots can swim faster than shorter ones. For example, a 13-micron length micro-robot can achieve a speed of 17.85 microns/second, which is rapid albeit over a tiny distance.
The robots can cope with different parts of the body where environmental conditions and factors like temperature and pressure vary. Speed and adaptability are achieved by the robots spinning as they move. The faster they spin then the greater the velocity through the body fluids.
The research is led by Drexel University’s Dr. MinJun Kim. Interviewed by Controlled Environments magazine, the mechanical engineer said: “We believe microswimmer robots could one day be used to carry out medical procedures and deliver more direct treatments to affected areas inside the body.”
The research has been published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. The research paper is titled “Versatile microrobotics using simple modular subunits.”
More about microrobots, Surgery, minirobots, Robots
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