Unlike eaten pills or injected liquids, which have a time delay, the tiny robot could withhold a dose of medicine and then administer it as soon as it reaches its target. Scientists have now developed gelatinous robots to crawl through human body to deliver medicines.
Scientists have created small gelatinous robots capable of crawling through the human body to administer medication or diagnose ailments.
According to Jill Rosen of John Hopkins University, the “gelbot” is driven by nothing more than temperature fluctuations, and its novel design, which mimics an inchworm, is among the most intriguing ideas in the field of soft robotics.
“It seems very simplistic, but this is an object moving without batteries, without wiring, without an external power supply of any kind—just on the swelling and shrinking of gel,” said David Gracias, a senior project leader and professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
“Our study shows how the manipulation of shape, dimensions, and patterning of gels can tune morphology to embody a kind of intelligence for locomotion.”
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The gelatin-based 3D-printed robot is meant to replace tablets or intravenous injections, which can have negative side effects.
On December 14, the prototype was presented in the journal Science Robotics.
Gelbot May Revolutionize Medicine in the 21st Century
Unlike conventional robots made of hard materials such as metals or plastics, the breakthrough “gelbot” is composed of a novel water-based gel that feels like a gummy bear, rendering it more fit for its mission.
The John Hopkins team stated that the gels can “swell or shrink” in reaction to temperature, allowing them to be utilized to “create smart structures,” and they were able to illustrate how they could move the jelly-like robots forward and backward on flat surfaces, as well as maneuver them in specific directions, with an undulating, wave-like movement.
Gracias envisions medical gadgets burrowing through a patient’s body to administer medication straight to a tumor, blood clot, or infection while causing no disruption to healthy tissue.
Unlike eaten pills or injected liquids, which have a time delay, the tiny robot could withhold a dose of medicine and then administer it as soon as it reaches its target.
The researchers envision the “gelbot” transforming how doctors evaluate their patients by functioning as less invasive diagnostic and therapy tools.
Gracias also intends to train the robots to crawl in response to changes in human biomarkers and biochemicals, as well as try alternative worm and marine organism-inspired designs and add cameras and sensors to their bodies.
He also intends to employ the “gelbot” for other reasons such as marine exploration or patrolling and monitoring the ocean’s surface in order to combat maritime pollution.
Other Research Teams Are Working on Similar Robotic Designs
The John Hopkins team is not the only one working on a small medical robot gadget.
Researchers at Cornell University revealed a project to create microscopic devices with legs that could move inside a patient to distribute medications or help with diagnosis two and a half years ago. These machines were to be similar to the “gelbot” and would be tiny.
This concept, which used a mini-computer, could move by laser impulses and was minuscule enough to live among microorganisms that already existed inside the human body.
“The new robots are about 5 microns thick (a micron is one-millionth of a meter), 40 microns wide, and range from 40 to 70 microns in length,” said the Cornell report.
“Each bot consists of a simple circuit made from silicon photovoltaics—which essentially functions as the torso and brain—and four electrochemical actuators that function as legs.”
Meanwhile, another Stanford University group earlier this year presented a “Transformers-style robot” inspired by Japanese origami, according to the New York Post.
According to Dr. Ruike Zhao, one of the project’s co-leaders, the “millibot,” like the “gelbot,” is intended to take medical payloads directly to a tumor, blood clot, or infection to disperse drugs or examine a patient’s inner organs.
Zhao claims that the “spinning-enabled wireless amphibious origami millirobot” is “the most robust and multifunctional robot we have ever developed,” and that it “has broad potential application in the biomedical field.”
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