Tiny microbot can travel through a living colon

Purdue University engineers have created a tiny rectangular robot that is the size of a few human hairs. In the image below, it's the tiny rectangular device with the black ends. The tiny robot can move through the colon by doing flips end over end and has been demonstrated in live animal models.The robot is designed to transport drugs in humans and travels by flipping to allow it to move through a human colon's rough terrain. The robot is also able to travel by flipping side-to-side rather than end-to-end. The robot is designed to deliver drugs directly to a target site to remove side effects like hair loss or stomach bleeding that medicines could cause using other delivery methods.

The study demonstrates the first time a microbot has tumbled through a biological system in vivo. The tiny robots are too small to carry a battery, so it is powered and wirelessly controlled from the outside of the body by a magnetic field. Researcher David Cappelleri says when the team applies a rotating external magnetic field, the robots can rotate just as a car tire would over rough terrain.

The magnetic field can safely penetrate different mediums, including the human body. Researchers chose to use the colon for in vivo experiments because it has an easy point of entry. It's a difficult voyage for the tiny robot as it's moving against the fluid and material traveling the colon in the opposite direction.

The magnetic robot can move through the colon despite the conditions and can be seen in the video above. The team conducted the experiments using live mice colons while the mice were under anesthesia. The microbot was inserted through the rectum in a saline solution. The process was observed in real-time using ultrasound equipment.