The microrobot can be seen just to the right of the “U” in United States on this U.S. penny. (Credit: Purdue University/Georges Adam)

A rectangular robot as tiny as a few human hairs can travel throughout a colon by doing back flips, engineers have demonstrated in live animal models. Why the back flips? Because the goal is to use these robots to transport drugs in humans, whose colons and other organs have rough terrain. Side flips work, too.

Why a back-flipping robot to transport drugs? Getting a drug directly to its target site could remove side effects, such as hair loss or stomach bleeding, that the drug may otherwise cause by interacting with other organs along the way.

Since it is too small to carry a battery, the microrobot is powered and wirelessly controlled from the outside by a magnetic field. The magnetic microrobots, cheaply made of polymer and metal, are nontoxic and biocompatible. The magnetic field also safely penetrates different types of mediums, which is important for using these robots in the human body.

The researchers believe that the microrobots could act as diagnostic tools in addition to drug-delivery vehicles.

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Medical Design Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2020 issue of Medical Design Briefs Magazine.

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