Scientists at Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology have created a tiny robot able to crawl through a person’s veins in order to diagnose and potentially treat artery blockage and cancer. The world’s smallest robot, with a diameter of one millimetre, it is powered by an external magnetic field allowing it to be controlled for an unlimited amount of time during medical procedures.
Oded Salomon, a research engineer in the Technion Faculty of Mechanical Engineering’s Kahn Medical Robotics Laboratory, conceived the tiny robot together with Prof. Moshe Shoham and Dr Nir Schwalb, Technion alum of the lab and now a lecturer at the Ariel University Center. Their miniature “submarine” can negotiate the inner walls of blood vessels using tiny arms which will allow it to withstand blood pressure. The robot is powered by an external magnetic field allowing it to be controlled for an unlimited amount of time during medical procedures.
Known as the ViRob, it is an autonomous crawling micro-robot with possible medical applications in:
Neurosurgery – possible treatment of post-hemorrhagic hydrocephalus in preterm infants.
Brachytherapy – a relatively new approach of providing anti-cancer therapy directly to the afflicted region. ViRob may help administer radiotherapy or chemotherapy, directly to the lung or to the prostate.
Imaging – a camera attached to ViRob can travel inside the spinal canal, ureters or bronchi to a given point, and may produce video images for diagnosis.
However, Prof.Shoham explains that a final product will not be ready for several years. A small enough camera needs to be developed, and an actuation device that will steer the robot once inside the body needs to be perfected. Animal trials are being performed, but human trials are about two years away.