A team of scientists from the University of Leeds, England, has designed a robot with tentacles that is able to explore the lungs and penetrate the smallest cracks of the bronchi.
With it it is possible to take samples from places that are practically inaccessible today and also perform chemotherapies.
There is no doubt that the irruption of the robotics in the medical field has brought great innovations in recent years. This could be one of them, although as the authors of the study explain in a press release, it will be several years before it is available in hospitals.
Actually, some experimental stages are yet to come. Until now, they have only tested the tentacle robot on 3D drawings of the bronchial tree. Then they wait use it on corpses and from there, in living patients.
It is true that there are still many steps to take, but according to the results published in Soft Robotics, the results so far are positive. In the future, patients with cancer and other lung diseases will appreciate it.
Accessing beyond the lungs has never been an easy task
Doctors today use a device called bronchoscope to examine the lungs and airways. It is a flexible tube 3.5 to 4mm in diameter that is inserted through the nose and mouth and directed into the bronchi.
The problem is that due to its size it can only reach the highest part of the tree that forms the bronchi. To penetrate the tightest angles, a catheter approximately 2 mm in size is passed through the bronchoscope.
This can already be introduced into the finest branches of the bronchial tree, but it is difficult to operate from the outside. Do not forget that this is a tube that is inside another tube that is passed through the nose. That is, it does not leave much room for movement.
However, the color robot developed by the STORM Laboratory at the University of Leeds is much more accessible. After all, it is an independent vehicle, controlled from the outside by a magnet. It is not attached to any support outside of its body, instead using magnetism to guide it to its destination.
The robot with tentacles that can travel to the smallest places in the lung
The tentacle robot is made up of a series of interconnected cylinders, each 2mm in diameter, like a catheter inserted into a bronchoscope. In total it measures 8 mm long, but thanks to the elastomeric material that composes it, It is very flexible and soft. so each segment can be articulated practically independently.
This material, in turn, is covered with a small magnetic layer that allows it to be manipulated from the outside. In fact, the robot with tentacles will not be the only robot in the room, since magnets mounted on the robot arm are used to guide it. This allows the device to be guided individually for each patient.
First, there will be a series of imaging tests of the lungs and bronchi, to determine the exact point of sampling or administration of the drug. Then, with this vital information, the magnets are programmed to guide the robot on long paths.
Tests with 3D printed bronchial trees from anatomical data were concluded. One would expect that with corpses, the results would also be good. If all goes well, in a few years more patients will have access to this tentacle robot in clinics and hospitals.
Artificial intelligence and robots, allied with medicine
STORM Laboratories has extensive experience in the development of devices that are inserted into the human body. One of his greatest achievements was the Invention Of The Low Cost Endoscope, which could be of great help in diagnosing diseases in countries with few resources. But that’s not the only thing that technology can do for medicine.
On the other hand, the algorithms of artificial intelligence They are very useful for diagnosing diseases. For example, deep learning can be used to analyze a large number of X-ray images and find lesions that may be associated with disease.
What about the algorithms? AI that select substances with pharmacological potential among millions of molecules? These are also very useful, but only if they fall into the right hands.