Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed what is being called a “snake robot” that’s designed to crawl through the blood vessels in your brain to cure disease.
Scientists at MIT are still testing this method but plan on using this magnetically controlled threadlike robot to surf through the complex vasculature of the human brain in order to deliver clot-reducing therapies to patients who have suffered from aneurysms or strokes.
The team has demonstrated how the robotic thread can be controlled through a life-size silicone replica of the brain’s blood vessels showing how the robot can be controlled just like guiding a thread through the eye of a needle.
Over the past few years, the team has built up expertise in both hydrogels — biocompatible materials made mostly of water — and 3-D-printed magnetically-actuated materials that can be designed to crawl, jump, and even catch a ball, simply by following the direction of a magnet.
“Stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States,” Xuanhe Zhao, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, said in a statement.
“If acute stroke can be treated within the first 90 minutes or so, patients’ survival rates could increase significantly. 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.”
The researchers said they plan in the near future that endovascular surgeries that incorporate existing magnetic technologies, such as pairs of large magnets, the directions of which doctors can manipulate from just outside the operating room, away from the fluoroscope imaging the patient’s brain, or even in an entirely different location.