By: Akshata Sonnad

 

There has been a dramatic improvement in the technology used for the detection and diagnosis of diseases in the human body, ranging from simple clinical tests to sophisticated imaging technology such as the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and radiography. The latest technological breakthrough in the field of medical electronics comes in the form of a tiny prototype robot that functions like a living creature which can be used to pinpoint diseases within the human body.

 

This micro-bot, called CYBERPLASM, fuses together microelectronics and biomimicry (from bios, meaninglife, and mimesis, meaningto imitate) to detect and diagnose diseases within the body.

Dr.Daniel Frankel of Newcastle University is leading a U.K.-based study on the Cyberplasm with the support of a research team from the National Science Foundation in the United States.

 

Dr.Daniel Frankel

The aim is for the Cyberplasm to have an electronic nervous system with light and smell sensors derived from mammalian cells, as well as artificial muscles that use glucose as an energy source to propel it forward. The intention of the research team is to engineer and integrate robot components that respond to light and chemicals in the same way as biological systems.

 

Cyberplasm

 

The researchers are hoping to model the Cyberplasm off the sea lamprey, a jawless fish that dwells mainly in the Atlantic Ocean. It has a very simple nervous system, which makes it easier to simulate with electronics. The Cyberplasm prototypes are expected to be less than 1cm long, with future versions being potentially built on a nanometer scale.

 

Mouth of a Sea Lamprey

The Cyberplasm’s sensors are being developed to respond to external stimuli by converting them into electronic impulses that are sent to an electronic ‘brain’ equipped with sophisticated microchips. This brain will then send the electronic messages to the artificial muscles guiding them as to how to contract and relax, thus enabling the robot to navigate its way safely inside the human body using an undulating motion. The micro-bot is sensitive to its environment and is capable of swimming around inside the body, which enables it to check for tumors or blood clots, for instance, or find chemical signatures of a range of diseases. This data can be collected and stored via these systems for later recovery by the robot’s operators.

 

 

Cyberplasm technology also offers insights in the field of advanced prosthetics, where living muscle tissues could possibly be engineered to contract and relax in response to stimulation from light waves or electronic signals.

 

Other such Biomimetic robots are the Lobster Robots, as shown in the pictures below.

Lobster Robots

 

Thus, in another 5 years, the Cyberplasm is expected to be fully functional and out in the market, which is most definitely a huge leap not only in the field of robotics, but also in the field of medicine.

 

 

References :

  1. www.epsrc.ac.uk
  2. http://www.sciencedaily.com
  3. http://www.news.discovery.com
  4. http://www.computescotland.com
  5. http://www.neurotechnology.neu.edu
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