Robot vessels for blood vessels

In research echoing Fantastic Voyage, Canadian scientists have succeeded in guiding a computer-controlled microdevice through the artery of a living animal at a speed of 10cm a second.



A team at the NanoRobotics Laboratory of École Polytechnique de Montréal’s Department of Computer Engineering and Institute of Biomedical Engineering carried out the breakthrough study under the direction of Professor Sylvain Martel.



In collaboration with researchers at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), the Polytechnique team succeeded in injecting, propelling and controlling by means of software programs a prototype device. The untethered ferromagnetic 1.5mm-diameter sphere was inserted into the carotid artery of a living animal placed inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.



Encouraged by these results, staff at the Polytechnique NanoRobotics Laboratory are working to further reduce the size of the devices so that, within a few years, they can navigate inside smaller blood vessels.



’Injection and control of nanorobots inside the human body, which contains nearly 100,000 kilometres of blood vessels, is a promising avenue that could enable interventional medicine to target sites that so far have remained inaccessible using modern medical instruments such as catheters,’ Professor Martel explained. ‘In collaboration with our scientific partners, Polytechnique researchers have begun developing several types of micro- and nanodevices for novel applications, such as targeted delivery of medications to tumour sites and diagnoses using navigable bio-sensors.’