Scientists have touted nanotechnology, or extremely small-scale devices, as a promising method for assessing patient health, delivering medicine, or potentially even repairing damaged tissue or fighting cancerous cells. However, nanobots have a long way to go from smart pills currently in development.
Still, the idea of microscopic robots working together in areas that would be too small or too delicate to disrupt with conventional surgery has attracted a lot of research. In addition, teams are working on nanobots that could change shape, move independently, gather data on the cellular level and share it, and target specific areas for treatment.
Nanobots in development
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has made several findings in nanobot development. MIT researchers have created cell-sized robots that can sense their environment, robotic “particles” that can cluster together, and nanobots that can be controlled by magnetic fields (see video above).
In another example, researchers at Arizona State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ National Center for Nanoscience and Technology recently tested nanobots to fight cancerous cells in mice.
Many of these nanobots have designs inspired by nature, with soft bodies for swimming, crawling, or walking. They’re also so small that they could be powered by heat or electricity within the body.
The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo will focus on improving the design, development, and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, and registration is now open.
“I believe the highest scientific and societal impact of mobile microrobotics would be in healthcare, where wireless microrobots can access unprecedented or hard-to-reach areas inside the human body,” Dr. Mittin Sitti, director of the Physical Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute, told Digital Trends. “[That could be useful] for non-invasive or minimally invasive medical diagnosis and treatment for short or long durations. Therefore, my group has focused on applying our new microrobots for various medical applications, such as targeted cancer therapy, embolization, blood clot opening, biopsy, and microsurgery.”
The infographic below summarizes the promise and challenges of nanobots:
Source: Best Health Degrees