The medical microbots of the future are here! The World Health Organization says that up to 20,000 people have an African sleep sickness called trypanosomiasis. It used to be so bad that the entire central Africa was unfit for habitation.
Experts from the Polytechnic in Lausanne and the Zurich Technical Institute have seen the good part in this epidemic. They used the protozoa which is to blame for the infamous disease as a prototype for a new breed of microbots which are designed to target-deliver drugs and micro-operate clogged arteries or performing micro-surgeries.
The science of microbots has advanced greatly in the last years. Some of the new additions are very small experimental bots which swim through the bloodstream, or prototypes that look like origami which can be swallowed.
So far, one of the greatest challenges has been how to propel these mini-machines through the human body. A new technique designed by the scientists at the two universities mentioned above could solve this puzzle in the future.
These experts have designed and tested the newest nano-bot generation: a robot which can be controlled via an electromagnetic field and that changes its shape when it reaches heat.
The newly created microbot prototypes are flexible and don’t have an engine. Instead, they use biocompatible water-based gel and electro-magnetic nanoparticles, which help the robot move around.
These prototypes are inspired by a protozoan which are carried by the African Tsetse fly. The microorganism has a flagellum to help it through the bloodstream of the infected host. But after it reaches its destination, the flagellum hides, tricking the host.
The microbot has a similar way of operation. It is moved around and powered by a magnetic field, and once it reaches the destination, it gets heat from a laser source, and the flagellum changes shape to get out of the way.
The nanobot is built by putting layers of electromagnetic particles in a compatible hydrogel.
Scientists have tested many designs and methods to establish what the optimum way of operation was. They sought an adaptable and flexible design.
This microbot will clear out blocked arteries and perform minimum invasive microsurgeries. It will also target-deliver drugs, to enhance effectiveness and minimize side effects. Sounds good, doesn’t it? We’ll just have to wait until the medical microbots of the future reach mass production.
Image Source – Stringanomaly Blog