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Robothread Robotic Worms Crawling Through Your Brain

Robothread is a thread-like "robot" that can crawl through the blood vessels in your brain, busting clots as it goes. I'm not sure what kind of science fiction MIT engineers Yoonho Kim and Xuanhe Zhao have been watching, but the device itself is pretty cool.


(MIT robo thread video)

Yoonho Kim and his colleague Xuanhe Zhao at Massachusetts Institute of Technology created the robot out of a polymer with small magnetic particles embedded throughout, meaning it can be directed using a magnet. It is coated in a self-lubricating material and is less 0.6 millimetres in diameter.

The pair tested the robot on a silicone model of a human brain, which contained a substance that mimics blood. When controlled with a magnet held outside the brain, the robot could worm its way through hard-to-reach blood vessels.

“The reason why robotics couldn’t go into this domain before is the existing robots that can navigate through a blood vessel were too large in diameter,” says Kim. Instead robots are used in the heart, where arteries are wider.

The 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage described an ocean-going vessel (with scientists!) that was ultra miniaturized to the point where it could be injected into a human being's bloodstream. The following video starts (or should start at 1:40) at the point where the Proteus enters the bloodstream. Note the classic 1960's navigation map of the bloodstream.

In the movie, a scientist had a clot in his brain that could be reached only from the inside; hence, the fantastic voyage of the Proteus.

I'd also reference the robotic earthworms from science fiction author Harry Harrison's 1962 story War With The Robots.

Via NewScientists.

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