by Alex Vikoulov [Posted August, 30, 2019 06.30 am PST]
MIT’s engineers created a prototype of a microrobotic worm for easier brain surgeries
Aimed to help neurosurgeons perform less invasive biomedical procedures, a tiny robotic worm can zigzag its way through a model brain. Yoonho Kim and his colleague Xuanhe Zhao at Massachusetts Institute of Technology created the robot out of a soft polymer with embedded ferromagnetic microparticles, meaning it can be navigated using a magnet. The device is coated in a self-lubricating material and is less 0.6 millimetres in diameter.
“The reason why robotics couldn’t go into this domain before is the existing robots that can navigate through a blood vessel were too large in diameter,” says Kim. In fact, existing robots are often limited to millimeter or centimeter scales due to miniaturization challenges inherent in conventional techniques, such as pulling mechanical wires, inflating pneumatics or hydraulics, or embedding rigid magnets for manipulation.
The duo of scientists tested their robot on a silicone model of a human brain, which contained a substance mimicking blood. When controlled with a magnet held outside, the robot could wiggle its way through hard-to-reach blood vessels in the brain.
Video: Ferromagnetic soft continuum robots navigating in brain arteries - MIT Engineering
Combined with these steering and navigating capabilities, additional functionalities such as steerable laser delivery for optogenetics are possible when an optical fiber is inserted into the robot’s body or other modifications are made. Researchers report their invention in the paper titled Ferromagnetic soft continuum robots, published on August 28, 2019 in Science Robotics.
The next step, says Kim, is to test their invention on animals about which the researchers are in talks with neurosurgeons at Harvard Medical School.
READ MORE: Ferromagnetic soft continuum robots
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aax7329 [Science Robotics]
Keywords: brain surgeries, neurosurgeons, biomedical procedures, robotic worm, Yoonho Kim, Xuanhe Zhao, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, human brain, steerable laser delivery, optogenetics, ferromagnetic soft continuum robots, Science Robotics, Harvard Medical School
Image Credits: Shutterstock, MIT Engineering
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