Microbots: Micro Life-savers.
Rapid advancement in nanotechnology has now allowed the production of smaller and smaller robots. Prototypes of robots, which measure only a few micrometers across, are already being made, and it is only a method of time before, it would be mass-produced. Kazushi Ishiyama, from the
The main drawback of conventional drug delivery methods is the difficulty in delivering the exact dosage of drugs to the precise target. The digestive system of the patient breaks down a large portion of the drug, before it could reach its intended target. One method of bypassing this problem is to take larger doses of medications. However, overdosing usually carries harmful side-effects and might even be lethal. Although injections do not have this problem, they are expensive and are difficult to self-administer. Microbots provide an elegant solution to this problem.
A microbot could be injected directly into the bloodstream of the patient, where it can be used to deliver required level of medications directly to malignant cells (where it is needed) at regular intervals. Thus there is no longer any problem of taking in too large or too small of a dose of medications, and there is no longer any need for a trained medical professional to be around, each time the patient requires a dose of medication.
Destroying cancerous cells
The conventional method of cancer treatment involves zapping cancerous cells with radiotherapy. While it is effective in eliminating the cancerous cells, the healthy cells around cancerous cells are often killed in the process, thereby weakening the immune system of the patient. However, microbot can be used to eliminate the cancerous cells, without harming the healthy cells around them. Kazushi Ishiyama’s microbot prototype is a rotating magnetized screw, which can be used to as a form of cancer treatment. The microbot is first injected into the patient, where it will burrow straight into the cancerous cells and unleash a hot metal spike to destroy them.
Technology behind the Microbot
The microbot is based of cylindrical magnets and is shaped like a small screw. The microbot is controlled by applying a three-dimensional electro-magnetic field, which will control the spin and direction of the microbot. Due to its small size, the microbot does not carry with it its own power unit, instead it is powered by the electro-magnetic field. By varying the pulses of the magnetic field, the temperature of the microbot could be increased, such that it is hot enough to burn away cancerous tissue. The microbot is strong enough to burrow through a 2cm thick steak in just 20 seconds.
While the microbot is small in size, it might still be fatal if it accidentally blocks a blood vessel. Thus doctors are still apprehensive about testing the prototype on humans. Because lives are at stake, medical robotics usually requires an exceptionally stable control system. Thus there is a need to have a stable control system, such that the microbot will almost never stray into blood vessels. Another solution would be to further reduce the size of the microbot, until the extent that it will not block a blood vessel even if it accidentally strays into one.
Given enough time, I am sure that these problems would be overcome and we will see microbots being used to save countless lives.