Robots in Healthcare - Microrobots offer the potential of precise diagnostics and targeted therapies.

When It Comes to Robots in Healthcare, Size Matters

Swimming, Crawling, and Jumping Microrobots Might Diagnose and Treat Illnesses

January 30, 2018, Bruno Jacobsen

Robotics is changing the future of healthcare. From restoring people's lost abilities to highly precise surgical operations, the potential is enormous. But robots in healthcare can be small too. So small that they can reach almost anywhere inside your body and deliver a highly targeted cure.

 

These new tiny robots can swim in liquids or crawl in surfaces. They can also perform other tasks, such as pick-and-place and release cargo.

 

When It Comes to Robots in Healthcare, Size Matters

 

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, have published about incredibly tiny robots that are multi-versatile.

The robots are only a few millimetres in size, are soft instead of rigid, and can alter their forms. They are made of shape-programmable matter, magnetically activated. According to researchers, magnetic actuation is a promising method for small-scale robots. Unlike their counterparts, robots controlled this way can create complex, time-varied shapes. Just like these can.

Besides swimming in liquids, these microrobots can also crawl, roll, and climb on surfaces. They can also perform other tasks, such as pick up things, move them, and place them.

More progress is needed, however, in controlling and directing the robots. Once we have more control over them, a new door opens to the future of healthcare.

 

Diagnosing and delivering treatment

These robots can be used in many areas. But their use in healthcare is particularly promising. Because of their size and precision, they can perform non-invasive diagnoses or treatments.

Although still not perfect, they would in theory be able to reach almost every corner of your body. This means they deliver drugs to places previously out of reach, and where surgery was required. They can also perform minimally invasive and targetted therapies for several diseases. The needed doses, which would be targeted, would be smaller and side-effects reduced.

Such microrobots can also be used for diagnosing, as they can be made to probe and interact with the surrounding micro-environment.

The future of healthcare is becoming ever more promising. We have to wait some years for this technique to be perfected and widely available. But with other advances in precision medicine, 3D-printed organs, and so on, we can be hopeful of a future with ever increasing solutions to our ailments.

 


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