A tiny new robot can travel deep into the lungs to detect and treat the first signs of cancer.
The Fantastic Voyage-style technology has been developed by scientists at the University of Leeds.
Measuring just two millimeters (0.08 inches) in diameter and controlled by magnets, the ultra-soft device can reach some of the smallest bronchial tubes.
Scientists say it could transform the treatment of lung cancer as it paves the way for a more accurate, tailored, and far less invasive approach.
It was developed by engineers, scientists and doctors based at the STORM Lab in Leeds.
The research team tested the magnetic tentacle robot on the lungs of a corpse and found that it can travel 37 percent deeper than the standard equipment and leads to less tissue damage.
“This new approach has the advantage of being specific to the anatomy, softer than the anatomy and fully-shape controllable via magnetics.
“These three main features have the potential to revolutionize navigation inside the body.”
Lung cancer has the highest worldwide cancer mortality rate.
Surgical intervention is the standard way of tackling it, but often leads to “significant” removal of tissue.
(STORMLab/University of Leeds via SWNS)
Lung cancer screening programs have led to better survival rates, but have also highlighted the need to find non-invasive ways to diagnose and treat patients quicker.
The devices are made of silicone to minimize tissue damage and are steered by magnets mounted on robotic arms outside the patient’s body.
Using a replica of a skull, the team successfully trialed the use of two robots to carry out endonasal brain surgery, a technique that allows a surgeon to go through the nose to operate on areas at the front of the brain and the top of the spine.
But they overcame the issue by designing the bodies of the tentacles in a way that they can bend only in specific directions and by relocating the north and south poles in each magnetic robot tentacle.
They were then able to simulate the removal of a benign tumor on the pituitary gland at the base of the cranium, proving for the first time that it is possible to control two of the robots in one confined area of the body.
Lead author, Zaneta Koszowska, a researcher in the University of Leeds School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, added: “This is a significant contribution to the field of magnetically controlled robotics.
In the 1966 science fiction movie “Fantastic Voyage,” starring Raquel Welch and Stephen Boyd, a team of scientists was shrunk inside a submarine and injected into a dying patient.
They traveled through veins into his brain and destroyed a blood clot with laser guns.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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