Friday, August 21, 2009

Microscopic Robots

Tiny robots small enough to enter the human body are being developed by researchers for a variety of purposes including treating cancer, drug delivery, and even the growth of new cells and tissues.

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Doctors are often faced with the challenge of performing microsurgery to repair blood vessels, transplant tissue or reattach a severed limb. These procedures are very intricate, and surgery is often not the most effective solution since it can be very invasive and difficult to conduct. Soon, many surgeons could be turning to nanotechnology and performing delicate tasks by remotely controlling tiny robots, similar in size to a grain of rice, that could travel through the body.
At Tohuku University in Japan, electrical engineer Kazushi Ishiyama and his group have designed tiny spinning screws that can swim through veins in the body. They can potentially burrow into tumours to kill them or deliver drugs to a specific tissue or organ. Since they are so small, they could be injected into the body using a standard hypodermic needle and once inside, could be magnetically steered around the body using a 3D magnetic field supply and controller. Ishiyama believes that these devices will be particularly useful for removing brain tumours since they are difficult to operate on.

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