Health

The Tiny Robot that Can Crawl Through Your Veins—And Treat Your Tumors

DiscoblogBy Allison BondMay 26, 2009 5:23 PM

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The next big step in cancer treatment might be small enough to balance on a grain of salt. Researchers at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have developed a miniature crawling robot, called ViRob, that can crawl through your lungs, find a tumor, and zap it with drugs. The bot, which is one millimeter long and four millimeters from end to end, can snake its way through the body, slipping into blood vessels and navigating through the respiratory and digestive systems, Innerspace style. Other mini-robots have been designed to take a voyage into the body. But thanks to tiny arms that help it grip vessel walls , ViRob is the first microbot that can tunnel between different body cavities. It’s controlled by an electromagnetic field outside of the robot that creates a vibration that propels ViRob forward. In lab tests, the robot has traveled up to nine millimeters per second and can commute through body fluids ranging from blood to bile, making it a versatile tool that can race through a vein and burrow into an organ. Its designers even hope to accessorize it with equipment such as a wee camera and a mini pair of tongs, to get that close-up view of those alveoli at work. The researchers are officially introducing the device at the upcoming ILSI-Biomed Conference in Tel Aviv. Related: Discoblog: A Flying Microbot! Discoblog: How to Swallow Your Surgeon Discoblog: Robots, Robots, Everywhere

Image: Courtesy of Ruder Finn Israel

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