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The thought of a tiny rectangular robot entering your rectum and travelling up the colon may not be too pleasant, but it could have significant health benefits.
The microrobot has already been tested in mice, and it has revealed new ways in which people may receive drug ‘payloads’. By using magnetic machines the width of a couple of hairs, professors hope that drugs can be delivered in the exact area intended and avoid nasty side effects such as hair loss and stomach bleeding. The early tests of these devices have left an optimistic outlook, and further studies are set to continue.
The microrobot’s magnetic field means there’s no reliance on batteries or any other elements that could be harmful. Instead, when the ‘tumbling’ microrobot reaches its destination it will stop and naturally exit the body at a later date.
The nature of the tumbling microrobot makes it ideal for terrain that can be difficult to navigate, such as the inside of the colon. Looking forward, Luis Solorio, an assistant professor at Purdue University, and Craig Goergen, who is an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering, want to use multiple microrobots on larger mammals.
Goergen explained in the journal Micromachines how the benefits of this study may translate to human practices:
From a diagnostic perspective, these microrobots might prevent the need for minimally invasive colonoscopies by helping to collect tissue. Or they could deliver payloads without having to do the prep work that’s needed for traditional colonoscopies.
The microrobots are said to be cheap, and as a result, they could be used within the medical industry. While the prospect of having these tiny microrobots inside a human system may not be pleasant, its unintrusive nature and medical benefits could lead to drugs and tests being more effective.
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