Microrobots will usher in a new wave of medical innovation, allowing doctors to access human body sites without the need for highly invasive procedures. Among other things, these tiny robots can be used to transfer drugs, genes, or other substances to specific areas of the body. This opens up new possibilities for the treatment of diseases.
Researchers from ETH Zurich (Swiss Higher Technical School of Zurich) and the Helmholtz Erlangen-Nuremberg Institute for Renewable Energy have recently developed robots in micro and nano sizes. The creators were inspired by biological micro-swimmers – spermatozoa. These small robots are capable of moving up the bloodstream. This makes them especially promising for carrying out “missions” in the human body.
Biological and wireless micro/nanorobotic systems can be used to deliver small drug molecules to areas within the body that are particularly difficult to reach.
By combining acoustic and magnetic fields, the robotic system developed by the researchers could help overcome some of the problems seen with other artificial micro-swimmers that rely on single-shot techniques. Moreover, because they respond to fields applied outside the body, micro/nanorobots do not require an onboard power supply or very complex and expensive components.
Until now, the use of micro- or nanoscale robots in medicine has been limited, especially in the vascular system (that is, in the vessels through which blood and lymph travels throughout the body). One reason is that robots working in the vascular system must be easily controlled in a non-invasive way. In addition, they must be able to move in the opposite direction to that in which the blood flows. These are two characteristics that have been quite difficult to achieve until now.