Miniature “origami robots” that can flip, rotate and SWIM could dispense medicines all over the body

It may sound like the plot of “Fantastic Voyage”, but miniature robots that can travel around the human body and dispense medicines may soon become a reality.

Stanford University researchers have developed a “millirobot” that can roll, spin, turn and even swim to enter confined spaces.

The finger-sized machine is inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding and can be controlled via magnets, delivering drug treatments directly to a tumor, blood clot, infection, or sore spot.

The millirobot could revolutionize medicine, according to the researchers, by replacing pills or intravenous injections that can cause unwanted side effects.

In the 1966 sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage, a submarine and its crew are shrunk and injected into a dying patient, where they venture through his veins in his brain and destroy a block using laser pistols.

Origami millirobot with rotation enabled propulsion. Finger-sized machine is inspired by the Japanese art of origami paper folding and can be controlled by magnets

In the 1966 sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage, a submarine and its crew are shrunk and injected into a dying patient, where they venture through his veins in his brain and destroy a block using laser pistols.

In the 1966 sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage, a submarine and its crew are shrunk and injected into a dying patient, where they venture through his veins in his brain and destroy a block using laser pistols.

In the 1966 sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage, a submarine and its crew are shrunk and injected into a dying patient, where they venture through his veins in his brain and destroy a block using laser pistols.

The new millirobot measures less than a third of an inch wide (7.8mm) and features a magnetic plate

The new millirobot measures less than a third of an inch wide (7.8mm) and features a magnetic plate

The new millirobot measures less than a third of an inch wide (7.8mm) and features a magnetic plate

The new millirobot measures less than a third of an inch wide (7.8mm) and features a magnetic plate.

It is able to quickly travel over slippery and uneven surfaces of an organ and swim through body fluids, pushing itself wirelessly while carrying liquid medicines.

Unlike ingested tablets or injected liquids, it holds the medicine until it “reaches its target and then releases a highly concentrated drug,” according to Stanford University mechanical engineer Renee Zhao.

“This is how our robot achieves targeted drug delivery,” he said.

The innovative design goes beyond most origami-based robots, which only use folding to control how they transform and move.

It also exploits if the bending motion performs certain actions such as squeezing medicine, similar to an accordion squeezing air.

Dr Zhao and her team also considered how the stiffness of the robot’s unfolded form lends itself to propulsion through the environment.

This allowed the US team to get more out of the materials without adding bulk.

The greater the functionality achieved by a single facility, the less invasive the procedure, explained Dr. Zhao.

Another unique aspect of the design is the combination of some geometric features, including a long hole in the center and slanted slots on the sides, to reduce water resistance and increase efficiency.

Dr Zhao said, “This design induces negative pressure in the fast swimming robot and meanwhile provides suction for picking up and carrying the cargo.

“Let’s take full advantage of the geometric features of this little robot and explore that one structure for different applications and for different functions.”

The millirobot can swim through body fluids, holding the medicine until it reaches the target and then releasing a highly concentrated drug

The millirobot can swim through body fluids, holding the medicine until it reaches the target and then releasing a highly concentrated drug

The millirobot can swim through body fluids, holding the medicine until it reaches the target and then releasing a highly concentrated drug

The new millirobot is capable of fast travel over the smooth, uneven surfaces of an organ, according to Stanford University mechanical engineer Renee Zhao

The new millirobot is capable of fast travel over the smooth, uneven surfaces of an organ, according to Stanford University mechanical engineer Renee Zhao

The new millirobot is capable of fast travel over the smooth, uneven surfaces of an organ, according to Stanford University mechanical engineer Renee Zhao

Dr. Zhao is working on several millirobot projects, including a crawling magnetic robot that can make its way through a stomach.

This robot is also powered by magnetic fields, allowing for continuous movement and allowing it to change direction in an instant.

The methods of locomotion are self-selected based on the obstacles it has to overcome in the body, from organs to streams of liquids.

By simply shifting the strength and orientation of the magnetic field, the robot can navigate ten times its length in one jump, according to Dr. Zhao.

The new first-of-its-kind swimming robot is among the robots ahead.

The robot is currently undergoing testing before animal experiments. If successful, human clinical trials will follow.

The “millirobot” can roll, flip, turn and even swim to enter tight spaces.

Dr Zhao also plans to continue scaling her robots, in order to deepen biomedical research on the microscale.

Hopefully, his robots will eventually carry tools or cameras around the body as well as dispense medicine and could change the way doctors examine patients.

“We started looking at how all of these work in parallel,” he said.

“This is a very unique point of this work and it also has wide potential application in the biomedical field.”

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation and the American Heart Association, was published in Nature Communications.

Small robots could be sent on a journey into the human brain by a California start-up

According to a California start-up, miniature robots could be sent deep into the human brain to treat ailments inaccessible by other methods.

Bionaut Labs plans to conduct its first clinical trials in humans in two years, for its tiny injectable robots, which can be carefully guided through the brain using magnets.

Working with the prestigious German research institutes Max Planck, they opted for magnets to operate the robot because it does not harm the human body.

The magnetic coils placed on the outside of the patient’s skull are connected to a computer that can remotely and gently maneuver the micro-robot in the affected part of the brain.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted firm approval for clinical trials involving the treatment of Dandy-Walker syndrome, as well as malignant gliomas, cancerous brain tumors often considered inoperable.