Engineers have designed a hydrogel-coated magnetic steerable thread-like robot capable of gliding through narrow pathways such as the labrynthine vasculature of the brain. The study combines work on hydrogels and magnetic actuation. Future use of the thread may pair it with current endovascular technologies that can enable doctors to remotely move the robot through a patient's brain vessels and treat blockages and lesions.
"Stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. If acute stroke can be treated within the first 90 minutes or so, patients' survival rates could increase significantly," says Xuanhe Zhao, associate professor of mechanical engineering and of civil and environmental engineering at MIT. "If we could design a device to reverse blood vessel blockage within this 'golden hour,' we could potentially avoid permanent brain damage. That's our hope."
MIT engineers have developed robotic thread (in black) that can be steered magnetically and is small enough to work through narrow spaces such as the vasculature of the human brain. The researchers envision the technology may be used in the future to clear blockages in patients with stroke and aneurysms. MIT.EDU Image and Caption Credit
"Existing platforms could apply magnetic field and do the fluoroscopy procedure at the same time to the patient, and the doctor could be in the other room, or even in a different city, controlling the magnetic field with a joystick," says lead author Yoonho Kim, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. "Our hope is to leverage existing technologies to test our robotic thread in vivo in the next step."
Findings of the study were published in the journal Science Robotics and describes the soft-robotic design. Researchers were able to demonstrate the precision of the robotic thread and activation by using a large magnet. Their development can help clear blood clots in the brain and allow doctors to perform an endovascular procedure.
Source: MIT News