Injectable medical robots take a step closer

Injectable medical robots take a step closer

Summary: Scientists have demonstrated a wirelessly powered tiny medical robot that can travel through a person's arteries and veins to provide diagnostics or local medical care.An animation provides an example of how the implant could travel through the bloodstream.

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Scientists have demonstrated a wirelessly powered tiny medical robot that can travel through a person's arteries and veins to provide diagnostics or local medical care.

Injectable robot in bloodstream

An animation provides an example of how the implant could travel through the bloodstream. Animation by Carlos Suarez, StrongBox3d

The breakthrough was shown off at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference on Wednesday by Stanford University electrical engineer Ada Poon. The technology promises tiny machines that can be injected into a person to perform medical work, according to Stanford University .

"Such devices could revolutionise medical technology," Poon said in the statement. "Applications include everything from diagnostics to minimally invasive surgeries."

Though scientists have known how to make implantable medical machines for some time, researchers had found it very difficult to shrink the power source so the devices could fit inside the human body, according to Andrew Myers of the Stanford School of Engineering.

Poon's technology removes the machine's local power source and instead uses a radio transmitter outside the body to send signals to a two-millimetre square coiled wire antenna on the machine. The transmitter and the antenna are magnetically coupled, so any change in the current flow of the transmitter induces a voltage in the coiled wire, which then powers the machine.

Previous attempts had involved antennas a few centimetres in diameter.

Poon's machines can be either stationary or mobile within the body. Potential applications include chemical and pressure sensors, ear implants, pacemakers, drug pumps and even mobile diagnostic and drug delivery units.

Some of Poon's machines "could travel through the bloodstream to deliver drugs, perform analyses, and perhaps even zap blood clots or remove plaque from sclerotic arteries," Myers wrote.

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Jack Clark

About Jack Clark

Currently a reporter for ZDNet UK, I previously worked as a technology researcher and reporter for a London-based news agency.

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