Saturday, June 27, 2009

ViRob: Tiny 'Robot' Travels Through Body

"The Tiny Robot that Can Crawl Through Your Veins—And Treat Your Tumors" (May 26, 2009)

"The next big step in cancer treatment might be small enough to balance on a grain of salt.

"Researchers at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have developed a miniature crawling robot, called ViRob, that can crawl through your lungs, find a tumor, and zap it with drugs. The bot, which is one millimeter long and four millimeters from end to end, can snake its way through the body, slipping into blood vessels and navigating through the respiratory and digestive systems..."

Judging from the photo, that would have to be a whacking great grain of salt. Just the same, ViRob is a remarkably compact device. And, at "up to nine millimeters per second," it's one fast little robot.

Today's ViRob doesn't do more than travel - and tunnel - inside a body, but eventually devices like this are, according to the article, carry cameras and tools to look around and get things done inside the body. I'll admit that I'm not entirely comfortable, thinking about a gizmo that size burrowing its way through me: but devices derived from ViRob could be lifesavers.

The article describes, sketchily, how ViRob is powered and controlled, and how next-generation devices like it may be used.

I'm quite interested in this. It's not exactly 'nanotechnology,' but ViRob looks like a step toward microscopic devices that could get medical procedures done without the sort of surgery we're used to.

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