Microbots Designed to Swim Through Body Fluids

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Many sci-fi flicks have shown tiny robotic creatures travelling into human bodies to get critical information. Now this fantasy will soon become a reality.  Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgard are experimenting with micro-sized robots that swim through your body fluids and are capable of delivering drugs and other sorts of medical relief.

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The two main requirements that these micro sized robots meet are: they are small enough to be used in bodily fluids or even individual cells, and they are able to navigate through complex biological fluids.  With this discovery, drugs could be delivered precisely to a target location, a point on the retina for instance, and gene therapy in a specific cell could be carried out.

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If things go according to Peer Fischer, leader the Micro, Nano and Molecular Systems Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, then doctors will call upon these microbots to carry out complex medical tasks, eliminating major surgery or by making some procedures minimally invasive.  The microbots look like scallops and are designed to paddle through non-Newtonian fluids like blood and plasma.  They need to be able to swim easily though fluid that has a changing viscosity.  The researchers call this propelling motion “modulation of the fluid viscosity upon varying the shear rate.” Basically the microbots open and close their ‘shells’ to compress the fluid and force it out behind them, which propels them along.  Fischer says “The shell is only a few times larger than the thickness of a human hair.  A liquid like water is about a viscous for these devices as honey of even tar is for us.” These tiny bots have a very simple structure, the scallop body consists of two shells connected with a single hinge.  These shells bear the responsibility of moving the bot through the veins and arteries.  Their simple structure makes it easy for them to be printed on a 3D printer.

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New discoveries are on the verge of making breakthroughs all the time, especially in the field of medicine.  Nanotechnology has been a great help to bring about this revolutionary change.  It is a weird and creepy idea to think about a tiny robot roaming around inside of you, but it’s all in teh name of science and for a better cause.





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