Our bodies have millions of tiny muscles in them that are constantly moving and causing the tissues in our bodies to move as well. This may be a disturbing thought for some people but it is these tiny movements that help keep us alive. If these muscles are not doing their job properly, then it could lead to disease and other serious illnesses. Unfortunately there are cases where these muscles do need a bit of help to keep our bodies working as they should. When this impacts the way our organs work then the consequences could be very serious. Presently there is no way to control the things that happen inside us but as technology develops this may not always be the case.
Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne have been developing a device which can be placed inside the body to regulate movement which takes place within the organs. These devices are only at the research stage at the moment but they have the potential to really change lives. As well as being able to stimulate movement in the muscle they could also deliver medicine from within the body.
The robots that are being developed will be soft devices that have microscopic tools attached. They can be implanted inside the body using a procedure that is not too invasive. Once the technology has been developed then there will be no limits on what can be achieved. It is important that research continues so that new discoveries can be made and these implants can start to be used as soon as possible.
The inspiration for the implants came from the body’s own locomotor system. Microscopic hydrogel components are used in the construction of the bots and these can be connected together as building blocks. Polymers that have been designed to act in the same ways as tendons can also be attached and this lets the hydrogel bots flex and bend while they are in the body. This gives them a great deal of flexibility in terms of where they can be positioned in the body which means there is the potential for them to be used for many different conditions.
When the implants are in the body then they can be controlled using infra-red light. These flashes of light can cause the implants to help the muscles contract and relax in a movement that only takes a few milliseconds. This type of manipulation takes place on such a microscopic level that it would not be achievable by any other means. It is not something that is being done on any level currently and this means that there are opportunities to improve people’s quality of life that are being missed.
There are many different ways that these type of robots can be used in both medical and other situations. If microscopic biological samples are needed then these bots can be used to get these samples. They will be particularly useful in situations where repeated stimulation is required. There are things that are currently not possible medically that these bots will be able to do quickly and easily and this is going to make a real difference in the medical world.
If medicine needs to be delivered to a specific point in the body then these implants are the ideal way to do this. They can also ensure that medicine is delivered as and when it is needed. The medicine can also be delivered remotely which means that there is less need for a patient to have to attend the doctors office or the hospital. Once the implant is in it can continue to serve its purpose without the need for constant medical intervention.
There is still a long way to go in terms of getting to the point where they can be used in patients. There is a lot of research and development that still needs to take place on the scientific side of things. There will also need to be trials and research done into how long they can be in a body without needing to be replaced. However, it is not beyond the realms of possibility to assume that someday there could be one of these implants in everyone that has any kind of problem with their muscular system.