• Thu. Aug 11th, 2022

Soft robots and origami combine for a potential way to provide medical treatment


Researchers have found a way to send tiny, soft robots to humans, potentially opening the door to less invasive surgeries and ways to provide treatment for conditions ranging from colon polyps to stomach cancer on the way. by blockages of the aortic artery.

Researchers at Ohio State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology detailed their discovery, which uses the ancient Japanese practice of origami, in a study published Sept. 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As part of this system, doctors would use magnetic fields to direct the soft robot inside the body, delivering medicine or treatment to places that need it, said Renee Zhao, corresponding author of the article and Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Ohio State.

“The robot is like a little actuator,” Zhao said, “but because we can apply magnetic fields, we can send it into the body without a tether, so it’s wireless. That makes it significantly less invasive than our current technologies.

This flexible robot is made of magnetic polymer, a flexible composite encrusted with magnetic particles that can be controlled remotely. Robotic delivery of medical treatments is not a new concept, but most previous designs used traditional robots, made of rigid and hard materials.

The “soft” component of this robot is crucial, Zhao said.

“In biomedical engineering, we want things as small as possible, and we don’t want to build things that have motors, controllers, fasteners and things like that,” she said. “And one advantage of this material is that we don’t need any of those things to send it into the body and get it where it needs to go.”

The soft origami robot in this case can be used to deliver multiple treatments selectively based on the independently controlled folding and unfolding of the origami units. Origami allows the material to “open up” when it reaches the site, deploying the treatment with it and applying the treatment to the area of ​​the body that needs it.

This origami-style medicine delivery isn’t new either, but because previous designs relied on more cumbersome and cumbersome means of activating or opening origami to deliver the medicine, these deliveries were often slow. Some did not allow drugs to be delivered to a specific location in the body.

The gentle robot, Zhao said, removes some of that clutter. Magnetic fields allowed researchers in the lab to control the direction, intensity, and speed of material folding and unfolding.

The researchers carried out this work in a laboratory, not in the human body. But the technology, they believe, could allow doctors to control the robot from outside the body using only magnetic fields.

“In this design, we don’t even need a chip, we don’t need any electrical circuit,” she said. “By simply applying the external field, the material can respond on its own – it doesn’t need any wired connection.”

These findings may have applications beyond drug delivery, said Glaucio Paulino, co-author of the article and Professor and Raymond Allen Jones Chair at the Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“We anticipate that the reported magnetic origami system is applicable beyond the limits of this work, including future origami-inspired robots, morphing mechanisms, biomedical devices, and spatial structures,” said Paulino .

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation.

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