A team of researchers at MIT and elsewhere have developed a tiny origami robot that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule to complete specific tasks within the body.
The robot can remove foreign objects, it can patch wounds, or it can deliver medicine at designated locations.
This new, ingestible robot builds on the teams previous work on mini origami robots, however the design of its body is significantly different.
The challenge with with designing an ingestible robot is finding biocompatible materials that are easy to be controlled and amenable to the types of operations that are needed of the robot.
To address this challenge the researchers tested about a dozen different possibilities for the structural material before settling on the type of dried pig intestine used in sausage casings.
To demonstrate how the robot works, the researchers folded the structure into a capsule made of ice.
The ice capsule travels down the esophagus into the stomach, where the ice melts away and the robot unfolds to its functional form.
At this point, the robot can be controlled by an external magnetic field to do work such as the removal of a foreign object from the body.
For example, every year, 3,500 swallowed button batteries are reported in the U.
The tiny batteries are digested normally but if they come into prolonged contact with the tissue of the esophagus or stomach, the batteries can burn the tissue and become embedded.
Now, using the teams new robot, the battery could be removed without surgery.
Once inside the stomach, the robot could be directed to attach to the battery.
It could lift the battery from the stomach coating and then eliminate it through the digestive system.
Next we would like to do in vivo experiments.
We would also like to add sensors to the robot, and redesign the robot so that it is able to control itself without the need of an external magnetic field.