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Mar 13, 2017 01:22 PM EDT

Edible Robots May Soon Work Inside Bodies To Administer Treatment Without Surgery.


Edible robots research have been around for some time now and they can do a myriad of things. We now even have robots that are small enough it can be swallowed and start working from the inside to do a host of programmed tasks without the need of a surgery.

Though the technology is still young, there have been advance wherein researchers have developed an edible pill-sized origami robot that can be ingested, to seek out accidentally swallowed objects and carry it safely through the digestive system.

The marvel of the procedure is seeing the results of employing tiny robots to do something related to health care. More so, the edible robots used are untethered, primarily designed to remove swallowed buttons and tiny batteries. These burn the stomach if not removed immediately.

What powers these untethered edible robots? Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University created a non-toxic edible battery composed of melanin pigments. These pigments are found naturally in hair, nails and our eyes.

The batteries are made up of melanin pigments at either the robot's positive and negative terminals. Electrodes are made up of manganese oxide and sodium titanium phosphate; and cations such as copper and iron that the body uses for normal functioning.

Accordingly, they were able to power a 5-milliwatt device up to 18 hours using just 600 milligrams of active melanin as a cathode.

Last year, researchers from the Polytechnique Montréal, The University of Montreal and McGill University, claimed to have a breakthrough in cancer research. Their team created a robot that can travel through the bloodstream and administer a drug with precision by targeting active cancerous cells of tumors, according to Wired.

Recently, researchers from Intelligent Systems Laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland have developed a tiny digestible robotic actuator made of gelatin, and shared their work. Actuators are parts of machines that are responsible for movement. The edible gelatin is filled with air or fluid that reacts to certain chemicals, causing them to move.

Combining this with other advancements already mentioned, these robots might be used to deliver medicines directly in the intestinal tract or move around, according to Dario Floreano, the professor who oversees the Intelligent Systems Laboratory, Recode reported.

What is surprising is that their "robot" actuator, it does not have electronics in it. Though still in the early stages of development, there will come a time when these edible robots might be used in lieu of invasive surgery, for something as simple as popping a pill.

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