While iRobot has been busy designing robots for cleaning your gutters, a team at Chonnam National University in Korea has been busy designing another robotic pipe cleaner. In this case, the pipes are human arteries.
News of this robot was recently covered in The Telegraph:
A microscopic robot small enough to travel through blood vessels has been built by scientists.
Less than a millimetre in size, the robot walks like a crab on six legs and has been designed to clear blocked arteries.
It was produced by researchers at Chonnam National University in Korea, who found the robot was able to travel 55 yards in a week.
Once inside a blocked artery, it is able to release drugs to dissolve blood clots, which are often the cause of heart attacks.
The robot has three short front legs and three longer back legs which are attached to a central rectangular body.
By attaching grafted heart muscle to the legs, the scientists found the legs would bend as the muscle cells contracted. The cells get their energy from sugar in the patient’s blood.
That means the robot does not need an external power supply, which are often heavy and cumbersome, if not impractical.
Because the robot’s three front legs are shorter than the back legs, they bend inwards as the heart muscles contract, creating a difference in friction that pushes the robot forward.
Using cells from the patient’s own body – perhaps grown from stem cells – would also reduce the likelihood of the body producing an immune reaction, which might destroy the tiny robot before it could clear a blockage.
Publicly available materials on this break-through are limited, and Robot Central has issued an inquiry with researchers at the university. We hope to discover more details soon. Earlier this year, researchers from Chonnam published an article in Chemical Science that discussed the creation of a microbot powered by living heart tissue. That article also references the possibility of artery cleaning. We have posted a video of this microbot on the Robot Central YouTube Channel.