A robot that can be implanted into the body to aid the treatment of oesophageal atresia. (Credit: University of Sheffield)

Researchers have created a revolutionary prototype robotic implant that encourages tissue growth in babies.

The robot is a small device that is attached to the oesophagus by two rings. An incorporated motor then stimulates the cells by gently pulling the tissue. Using two types of sensors — one to measure the tension in the tissue and another to measure tissue displacement — the robot monitors and applies tissue traction depending on the tissue properties.

The robot’s function is inspired by the Foker technique of correcting the oesophageal atresia which involves manually pulling the tissue slowly using sutures over a period of time. Oesophageal atresia is a rare genetic disease that affects about one in 4000 babies born in the United States and Europe. It occurs when the upper and lower parts of the oesophagus don’t connect, which means food can't reach the stomach.