Micro-Robots Work Inside the Human Body

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Micro-Robots Work Inside the Human Body

One of the greatest advances in medical history was the development of surgery.  However, after more than 150 years, it is still a wrenching and brutal process. 

According to Medical News Today, about 300,000 people have coronary artery bypass surgery each year.  It seems almost miraculous, for example, that someone on death's door from cardiovascular disease can be granted a new lease on life through bypass surgery.  On the other hand, that procedure comes at a tremendous cost and often with serious side effects, such as pain and diminished cognitive abilities. 

That is why researchers have long dreamed of finding an alternative to surgery.  And one does appear to be on the horizon at last.  It was imagined in a 1966 science fiction film called Fantastic Voyage, in which scientists were able to reduce doctors and submarines to microscopic size so that they could be injected into the bloodstream and travel through the body, fixing whatever was wrong. 

Although none of today's scientists envision shrinking their colleagues, The Jerusalem Post1 announced recently that researchers at the Judea and Samaria College in Ariel, Israel, and from the mechanical engineering department of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have designed a robot that can crawl through the bloodstream to treat conditions, such as tumors, that are too difficult for conventional surgery

The robot, called ViRob, is powered by a harmless external magnetic field and has the ability to crawl upstream against the flow of blood.  In principle, numerous such robots could be injected into the body simultaneously to treat widely invasive forms of cancer.  The researchers say that the robot could remain in the body indefinitely to carry out medical procedures as needed.

For example, ViRob can clean the plaque from blood vessels in patients suffering from cardiovascular disease.  It can also cut off samples of tissue for biopsies.  It can be fitted with a camera so that the inside of the body can be viewed in real time.  And, because the ViRob makes deep incisions unnecessary, it reduces recovery time for the patient.

The robot is equipped with tiny arms that allow it to grab onto the walls of blood vessels and push itself along.  The hair-like arms stretch or retract to fit the size of the vein or artery. 

One version of ViRob developed by the Israeli team for a company called Mazor is already in use performing spinal surgery.

ViRob is not alone...

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