The tip of a bronchoscope. (Credit: Adobe Stock)

A robot can reach some of the smallest bronchial tubes in the lungs — to take tissue samples or deliver cancer therapy. Known as a magnetic tentacle robot, it measures just 2 mm in diameter.

Magnets on the outside of the patient will be used to guide the magnetic tentacle robot into place. The proof of concept was based on laboratory tests involving a 3D replica of a bronchial tree modeled from anatomical data. The next phase of the research will investigate the effectiveness of the device in navigating lungs taken from a cadaver.

The magnetic tentacle robot has been developed to be much more maneuverable and uses a robotic guidance system that is personalized for each procedure. To reduce the size of the robot while retaining controllability of motion, the researchers manufactured it from a series of interlinked cylindrical segments, each 2 mm in diameter and around 80 mm in length. The segments were made of a soft elastomeric or rubber-like material that had been impregnated with tiny magnetic particles.

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