Friday, June 10, 2016

Invasion of the Origami Gut Robots

Released from Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The prospect of small robots being used within the human body to fight infections or other problems within seemed like a far fetched idea.  However, the research group of Daniela Rus, Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science presented their paper at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation on their discovery.  What they had developed were tiny origami robots that would enter the esophagus and the stomach, would fold and move around in the stomach to help with stomach wounds or foreign materials.

"It's really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to health care," says Rus. "For applications inside the body, we need a small, controllable, untethered robot system. It's really difficult to control and place a robot inside the body if the robot is attached to a tether."  The robot uses a stick-slip method which uses its appendages to stick to a surface through friction when it moves, but slips free again when its body flexes to alter its weight distribution.  Also, since there is quite a bit of liquid within the stomach, the tiny robot can also use water to propel itself forward.  

In addition, the small robot is constructed out of bio-compatible material, so you aren't having a metal robot enter your system.  The material Biolefin was selected after the group tested numerous materials.  This material consists of a shrinking layer within a biodegradable shrink wrap that is partially comprised of dried pig intestine (used in sausage casings).  They then tested their design by using a pig's stomach filled with water and lemon juice to simulate an actual environment within a stomach.  The robot proved to be an excellent tool in removing a watch battery from said stomach.

“This concept is both highly creative and highly practical, and it addresses a clinical need in an elegant way,” says Bradley Nelson, a professor of robotics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. “It is one of the most convincing applications of origami robots that I have seen.”

For more information on this topic, check out the video released by MIT news:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Waj08gk7v8

In addition, check out the story here:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-05/miot-iro051216.php