AI News, The Tiny Robots Will See You Now

The Tiny Robots Will See You Now

These tiny robots will someday “have a major impact” on disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, according to a new review in Science Robotics from a top nanoengineering teamat the University of California, San Diego.

The review highlights four areas of medicine where tiny robots have been successfully used in proof-of-concept studies: targeted delivery, precision surgery, sensing of biological targets, and detoxification.

In December, for example, researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland showed that a wire-shaped nanorobot could be wirelessly steered toward a location and then triggered by a magnetic field to release drugs to kill cancer cells.

Many of the robots employ a swimming strategy and are either chemically powered or externally powered by magnetic fields or other energies, including light, heat, or electricity.

One of Wang’s favorites is a “nanorocket” his team developed that propels itself in the stomach or gastrointestinal tract using gastric fluid as fuel and leaving a trail of bubbles in its wake.

Scientists are developing nanodrillers, microgrippers, and other tools to be injected into the body, travel to particular areas in the body, and then capture or remove certain tissues, such as a clump of cells for biopsy.

This robot made of algae can swim through your body—thanks to magnets

For decades, engineers have been trying to build medical robots that can deliver drugs or do surgery inside the human body—a somewhat less fantastic version of the 1966 sci-fi film Fantastic Voyage.

Now, scientists have manipulated spirulina, a microscopic plant and food supplement, to travel through people in response to magnetic signals.

Magnetic fields created outside the body can penetrate living tissue without harm, allowing researchers to move magnetized objects around inside.

The researchers wondered whetherthey could follow the robot's course near the body surface by detecting this fluorescence, and then use a commonly used medical imaging technology called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to track it in deeper parts of the body.

A longer dip time allows for more control, but a shorter dip time allows researchers to detect the fluorescence more readily.

The one exception was cancer cells, some 90% of which were destroyed after tumor cells growing in a lab dish were exposed to the spirulina for 48 hours.

Zhang’s team, for example, still needs to show that its microbot can carry cargo—such as drugs attached to or within the spiral—and deliver those drugs more effectively than just taking a pill or getting an injection.

Tiny robots crawl through mouse’s stomach to heal ulcers

By Timothy Revell Tiny robotic drug deliveries could soon be treating diseases inside your body.

In mice with bacterial stomach infections, the team used the micromotors to administer a dose of antibiotics daily for five days.

The tiny vehicles consist of a spherical magnesium core coated with several different layers that offer protection, treatment, and the ability to stick to stomach walls.

This process briefly reduces acidity in the stomach. The antibiotic layer of the micromotor is sensitive to the surrounding acidity, and when this is lowered, the antibiotics are released.

This mechanism means that drugs normally used to treat bacterial infections, such as ulcers, normally have to be taken alongside proton pump inhibitors that suppress gastric acid production.

After 24 hours, the stomach acid of the mice returned to normal levels, and as the micromotors are mostly made of biodegradable materials, they were dissolved by the stomach, leaving no harmful residues.


Nanorobotics is an emerging technology field creating machines or robots whose components are at or near the scale of a nanometre (10−9 meters).[1][2][3] More specifically, nanorobotics (as opposed to microrobotics) refers to the nanotechnology engineering discipline of designing and building nanorobots, with devices ranging in size from 0.1–10 micrometres and constructed of nanoscale or molecular components.[4][5] The terms nanobot, nanoid, nanite, nanomachine, or nanomite have also been used to describe such devices currently under research and development.[6][7] Nanomachines are largely in the research and development phase,[8] but some primitive molecular machines and nanomotors have been tested.

document with a proposal on nanobiotech development using open design technology methods, as in open-source hardware and open-source software, has been addressed to the United Nations General Assembly.[15] According to the document sent to the United Nations, in the same way that open source has in recent years accelerated the development of computer systems, a similar approach should benefit the society at large and accelerate nanorobotics development.

In the same ways that technology research and development drove the space race and nuclear arms race, a race for nanorobots is occurring.[16][17][18][19][20] There is plenty of ground allowing nanorobots to be included among the emerging technologies.[21] Some of the reasons are that large corporations, such as General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Synopsys, Northrop Grumman and Siemens have been recently working in the development and research of nanorobots;[22][23][24][25][26] surgeons are getting involved and starting to propose ways to apply nanorobots for common medical procedures;[27] universities and research institutes were granted funds by government agencies exceeding $2 billion towards research developing nanodevices for medicine;[28][29] bankers are also strategically investing with the intent to acquire beforehand rights and royalties on future nanorobots commercialisation.[30] Some aspects of nanorobot litigation and related issues linked to monopoly have already arisen.[31][32][33] A large number of patents has been granted recently on nanorobots, done mostly for patent agents, companies specialized solely on building patent portfolios, and lawyers.

Thus, it is quite understandable the importance of the following distinct techniques currently applied towards manufacturing nanorobots: The joint use of nanoelectronics, photolithography, and new biomaterials provides a possible approach to manufacturing nanorobots for common medical uses, such as surgical instrumentation, diagnosis, and drug delivery.[35][36][37] This method for manufacturing on nanotechnology scale is in use in the electronics industry since 2008.[38] So, practical nanorobots should be integrated as nanoelectronics devices, which will allow tele-operation and advanced capabilities for medical instrumentation.[39][40] A

DNA based machines can be activated using small molecules, proteins and other molecules of DNA.[42][43][44] Biological circuit gates based on DNA materials have been engineered as molecular machines to allow in-vitro drug delivery for targeted health problems.[45] Such material based systems would work most closely to smart biomaterial drug system delivery,[46] while not allowing precise in vivo teleoperation of such engineered prototypes.

This process is called retroviral gene therapy, having the ability to re-engineer cellular DNA by usage of viral vectors.[56] This approach has appeared in the form of retroviral, adenoviral, and lentiviral gene delivery systems.[57] These gene therapy vectors have been used in cats to send genes into the genetically modified organism (GMO), causing it to display the trait.

When the nanoparticle encounters a cancer cell, it adheres to it, and releases the drug into the cancer cell.[71] This directed method of drug delivery has great potential for treating cancer patients while avoiding negative effects (commonly associated with improper drug delivery).[70][72] The first demonstration of nanomotors operating in living organism was carried out in 2014 at University of California, San Diego.[73] MRI-guided nanocapsules are one potential precursor to nanorobots.[74] Another useful application of nanorobots is assisting in the repair of tissue cells alongside white blood cells.[75] Recruiting inflammatory cells or white blood cells (which include neutrophil granulocytes, lymphocytes, monocytes, and mast cells) to the affected area is the first response of tissues to injury.[76] Because of their small size, nanorobots could attach themselves to the surface of recruited white cells, to squeeze their way out through the walls of blood vessels and arrive at the injury site, where they can assist in the tissue repair process.

Four Ways We Can “Swallow the Doctor” (Nanodocs, the medical nanorobots)

The authors of a recent research study say we may be able to swallow the doctor sooner than we think.  Once considered science fiction, the ability to “swallow the surgeon”

is becoming a reality.  The study authors highlight recent advances in nanotechnology tools, such as nanodrillers, microgrippers, and microbullets – and show how nanodocs have tremendous potential in the areas of precision surgery, detection, detoxification and targeted drug delivery.

Collin Johnson / Attributed to Stanford University.] Imagine that you need to repair a defective heart valve, a major surgery.  Instead of ripping your chest cut open, a doctor merely injects you with a syringe full of medical nanorobots, called nanodocs for short.

Jinxing Li and a team of nanorobotic engineers at UCSD’s Department of NanoEngineering published their findings in the journal Science Robotics, highlighting the significant advances in medical nanorobots over the past few years.

According to the authors of the study, called the nanodoc review for short,  “Designing miniaturized and versatile robots of a few micrometers or less would allow access throughout the whole human body, leading to new procedures down to the cellular level and offering localized diagnosis and treatment with greater precision and efficiency” The authors of the nanodoc review listed the main challenges involved in making nanodocs, including propulsion, navigation and a power source.

Nanodoc engineers drew inspiration from the microbiology world and copied the propulsion systems of the micro-organisms that share their environments, such as bacteria and human cells.

According to the authors of the nanodoc review article, medical nanorobots provide us with four potential ways to swallow the doctor, including Precision Surgery, Sensing

According to the authors of the nanodoc review, “With dimensions compatible with those of the small biological entities that they need to treat, micro/nanorobots offer major advantages for high-precision, minimally invasive surgery.” Adding “Unlike their large robotic counterparts, these tiny robots can navigate through the body’s narrowest capillaries and perform procedures down to the cellular level.” After we swallow the doctor, nanodocs can operate in hard-to-reach locations and carry out medical procedures at the cellular level.

Nanoengineers have found a solution to the handless surgeon problem by developing a class of nanodocs called microgrippers who “can capture and retrieve tissues and cells.” Tethered and larger sized versions of these tools are nothing new, however, suffer from the drawback of being comparatively large.

After inserting the bacteria based nanodocs, surgeons use magnetic fields to guide the bacteria based nanodocs to the general location of the tumor, after which the bacteriobots are on their own.  Relying on their low oxygen sensors, the bacteria-based nanodocs burrow deep into tumors where they deliver a lethal payload of cancer drugs.

Nanodoc engineers discovered that when they attached a bioreceptor to a constantly moving nanomotor, and the resulting nanodevice collides with its target molecule far faster than if it was merely floating free.

These nanodevices are powerful enough to both detect and transport target cells, while others are small enough to operate inside cells, creating the possibility that nanodocs can repair structures inside the cell, including damaged mitochondria.

While people think of a nanorobot as one based on tiny wires and metals, the trend these days is a move towards organic machines based on molecular nanotechnology or perhaps a combination of both organic and inorganic to create hybrid nanodocs.

And have the potential to poison the patient if their fuel tanks were to rupture inside the body According to the authors of the nanodoc review article, the outlook for chemical nanomotors is becoming brighter as nanoengineers are conducting experiments with chemical nanomotors on living organisms, just not the insurance-card carrying two-legged kind.

Because of recent advances in nanotechnology tools, such as nanodrillers, microgrippers, and microbullets we are poised to we can swallow the surgeon, and use medical nanobots to diagnose and treat disease from inside the body.

By combining nanomaterials with biology, clever nanodoc engineers have developed nanoscale diagnostic devices, contrast agents, analytical tools, and drug delivery vehicles.

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