Tiny machines that roam our bodies, delivering drugs and killing tumors: It sounds like science fiction, but someday—depending on how long it takes devices such as the three seen here to reach the market—it’ll be just plain science.
This swirly robot was developed by teams in Israel and Germany. Don’t be scared: “It’s not like you inject them and then they move around the whole body,” says researcher Alexander Leshansky. Instead, doctors direct the robot via an external magnetic field, which also provides power.
What it’s good for: Agility. With a diameter of barely a micron (a human hair is 50 to 100 microns), the corkscrew is too small to navigate the strong current of the bloodstream. But its size does let it move through tiny spaces, like the pores of a cell membrane.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany have developed a device that pulls itself along by opening and closing two shell-like silicone wings.
What it’s good for: Power. The 800-micron-wide bot keeps moving even in thick bodily fluids. It would be able to deliver a drug directly to the gel-like vitreous of the eye, for example—a more effective way of getting medicine where it’s needed.
The nickel-coated cage developed by researchers in South Korea, Hong Kong, and Zurich is about 100 microns long, and is also powered by electromagnetic field.
What it’s good for: Cargo. With its large surface area, the cage is able to transport more drugs than other designs, and could even possibly transport cells to be used for tissue and organ regeneration.