Scientists have created a tiny pangolin-inspired magnetic robot that can move around a human body and perform minimally invasive medical procedures.
The tiny robot works like an animal and swims around the human body. So far tested on practice tissue, it was found to be capable of heating up hard-to-reach places, such as the stomach and intestines, delivering cargo to tissues and stopping bleeding. The heat could be used for performing cancer treatment or mitigating bleeding.
Scientists have long aimed at creating magnetic soft robots made out of soft metals that could navigate around the body without surgery or other invasive procedures. However, the safety and functionality of the robots were the challenges. Researchers then turned to the pangolin, a mammal covered in scales. The scientists studied its scales and realised these served as an armour helping the animal move flexibly. Pangolin’s rigid scales fit together in an overlapping structure that lets them fit over the top of each other. The scientists picked this theory for their new robots.
The tiny robots – at 1 cm by 2 cm by 0.2 mm – use pangolin’s overlapping scale design and are able to heat, change shape and roll around. The details of the research are carried in the paper, ‘Pangolin-inspired untethered magnetic robot for on-demand biomedical heating applications’ published in Nature Communications.