Robotic Worm Designed to Burrow Into Human Brains by MIT Researchers
Robotics engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT have developed a threadlike robotic worm which can be magnetically steered to deftly navigate into the extremely narrow and winding arterial pathways of our human brain. This robotic worm could be used to quickly clear blockages and even clots that contribute to strokes and aneurysms. Along with this, at the same time this technology making the current state of robotic technology& its evolution even more unsettling.
Strokes are one of the leading cause of death and disability in the US, but if the relieving blood vessel blockages are possible within the first 90 minutes of treatment, it has been found to show dramatically increase survival rates of the patients. This process is a complicated one. But with the help of skilled surgeons to manually guide a thin wire through the patient’s arteries up into a damaged brain vessel which is then followed by a catheter that can deliver treatments or medications or simply retrieve a clot from its place. This is not the only potential for these wires to damage vessel linings as these wires inch through the body. But during the process, the surgeons are exposed to excess radiation from a fluoroscope that guides them by generating x-ray images in real-time. And there is a lot of room for improvement in this area. Here comes the importance of robotic worm designed to remove clots from the human brain.
Credit: MIT Researchers – Designed this Robotic Worm to Burrow Into Human Brains
Using the expertise in both water-based biocompatible hydrogels, and by the use of magnets to manipulate simple machines, the MIT robotic engineers created a robotic worm for human brain featuring a pliable nickel-titanium alloy core with the memory shape characteristics so that when it is bent, it returned to its original shape. The core was then coated with a rubbery paste that was embedded with magnetic particles. Then it was wrapped in an outer coating of hydrogels allowing this robotic worm designed for the human brain to glide through its arteries and blood vessels without any friction that could potentially cause any damages.
The robotic worm was tested on a small obstacle course, with a twisting path of small rings, which was guided by a strong magnet which could be operated at enough distance to be placed outside a patient. The MIT engineers also mocked up a life-size replica of a brain’s blood vessels and it was found that not only could the robot easily navigate through the obstacle but that it had also the potential to upgrade it with additional tools like a delivery mechanism for clot reducing drugs. They even successfully replaced the worm’s metalcore with an optical cable, so that once the robot reached its destination, the robot could deliver powerful laser pulses to help remove a blockage of the human brain.
The robotic worm designed for would not only make the post-stroke procedure faster and faster, but these robots would also reduce the exposure to radiation that surgeons often have to endure during the clot removal process. And when it was tested using a manually operated magnet to steer it, eventually machines can be built to control the positions of the magnets ( MRI machines already surround patients in intense magnetic fields) with an improved accuracy, which would in turn further improve and accelerate the robot’s journey through a patient’s body.