UK researchers work on disease-detecting nano-robot

Mar 30, 2012
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Scientists at the UK's Newcastle University and the National Science Foundation in the United States are working on a new kind of robot. Not the kind that will wake you up and present you with the paper and a cup of coffee in the morning, but one that could literally swim around inside your body to get the most in-depth analysis possible when you start to feel sick, or even detect symptoms for serious disease even if you don't feel any different.

Researchers said they looked at the sea lamprey as a basis for this project, because of its simplistic nervous system. The idea is that scientists could duplicate that system in a tiny robot. A nervous system, albeit an electronic one, is a necessary part of every robotic device. Eventually, scientists hope they'd be able to create a location-aware device that's so small you couldn't even see it, but it would be able to go into your body and track down problem areas.

Right now, doctors use all kinds of advanced technology to diagnose patients, like digital imaging, but that only provides so much information and it uses a lot of big and expensive equipment. The robot in question would theoretically be capable of automatically detecting blood clots, or chemical signatures known to represent various diseases. They could also provide unparalleled insights to the way the body actually works. Despite that being one of the most comprehensively researched areas in all of science, there are still many unanswered questions about the mechanics of the human body, and this project could help finally illuminate some of those questions.

[via Discovery]


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