This Tiny Ingestible Robot ‘Can Patch Wounds, Remove Foreign Objects, and Deliver Drugs’

By: | August 2nd, 2016

An example of a capsule and the unfolded origami device.Image courtesy MIT-Microsurgeon

You might have seen young children putting things in their mouths. At times they even end up swallowing something they shouldn’t have.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are working to develop a tiny ingestible robot made from pig gut that could be put to work inside your body. The tiny robot can target an accidentally swallowed foreign object, deliver medicine, or patch up an internal wound before decomposing without a trace.

Researchers call their experiment an “origami robot” as the accordion-shaped gadget gets folded up and frozen into an ice capsule.

As per Daniela Rus, a professor who directs MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, “You swallow the robot, and when it gets to your stomach, the ice melts and the robot unfolds.  Then, we can direct it to a very precise location.”

Rus explained that if a child swallowed a disc-shaped button battery that is very common in day to day electronic devices, the battery can quickly burn through the stomach lining and be fatal. In this case, the robot could search for and capture the battery and can push it down through the gastrointestinal tract and out of the body.

The robot’s flexible frame is made of the same dried pig intestine used for sausage casing. Researchers experimented with many types of materials like rice paper, sugar paper, and hydrogel paper, but found that sausage casing has all the required properties like folding, unfolding, and controllability.

The robot is a neodymium magnet that looks like a tiny metal cube and will be embedded in a meaty body where it can be controlled by magnetic forces.

Although it sounds very promising, it’s still a long time before the device can be deployed in a human or animal.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. You can also find Nidhi on Google+.

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