The way medicine and surgery are delivered could be about to change forever, thanks to the invention of microscopic swimming robots.
Inspired by 'bacteria and sperm', these 3D-printed micro-swimmers can be powered and steered through the human body by ultrasound waves.
Designed by a team of scientists at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the idea is that the robots will be able to navigate the human body and deliver medicine and other treatments in a hyper-targeted way.
Instead of medicine being distributed by the entire body, these little robots could ensure that treatment hits problem cells or organs in a specific area—and reduce problematic side effects.
"We can make airplanes that are better than birds nowadays. But at the smallest scale, there are many situations that nature is doing much better than us. Bacteria, for example, have had billions of years of evolution to perfect their way of doing things," said Professor Mingming Wu, who led the project.
He continued: "That led us to think that we can actually engineer something similar. If you can send medicine to a targeted area, like cancer cells, then you won't have as many side effects."
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Initially, the scientists struggled with constructing the device, until they decided to start using a 3D printer specially made for printing 'nanotechnology'. This allows them to create the extremely small robots, which have tiny air bubbles inside them that doctors can steer through the blood stream.
In the future, the team hopes to build the swimmers from biodegradable material, so that dozens or even hundreds of bots can be distributed throughout the body safely at once.
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Advances in nanotechnology and 'tiny robots' are being made quickly this year. Earlier this week, a team of researchers revealed they have developed the world's smallest flying machines, based on 'propeller seeds' from maple trees.
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