These tiny crawling bots can treat infections, tumors, and blood clots in the human body. (All Images Via: Aishwarya Pantula / Johns Hopkins University)
John Hopkins University scientists developed a 3D-printed tiny, crawling robot designed to treat diseases in the human body. Powered by temperature changes, the gelbot has a gummu-like texture, a huge difference compared to robots made of plastics or metals. The gelatin device could substitute traditional drug delivery or injection methods that cause side effects.
"It seems very simplistic, but this is an object moving without batteries, without wiring, without an external power supply of any kind — just on the swelling and shrinking of gel," the study's senior author, David Gracias of Johns Hopkins University, said. "Our study shows how the manipulation of shape, dimensions and patterning of gels can tune morphology to embody a kind of intelligence for locomotion."
Previously, researchers proved that gels shrinking or swelling due to temperature variations form smart structures. In this study, the team demonstrated they manipulated the gels to move forwards and backward on flat surfaces and made them crawl in various directions with a wave-like motion.
The devices could deliver drugs to a blood clot, tumor, or infection in the human body without disrupting healthy tissue. It would store the essential medicine within its body before arriving at the target. Additionally, the tiny bots can help fight ocean pollution by surveying the ocean surface.
Even better, the gelbots are inexpensive and can easily be mass-produced. They can be trained to crawl "in response to variations in human biomarkers and biochemicals." Gracias also plans on testing other worm and marine organism-inspired shapes and forms, eventually adding cameras and sensors on their bodies.
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