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Medicine Robotics Hardware Science Technology

MRI Powered Pill-Sized Robot Swims Through Intestines 98

kkleiner writes "Researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel and Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston have collaborated to create a robot that can swim through the intestines. The size of a large pill, the 'microswimmer' is powered by the strong magnetic fields generated by an MRI machine. A tail measuring 20mm x 5mm made of copper and flexible polymer vibrates due to the magnets and propels the little microrobot through the gut."
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MRI Powered Pill-Sized Robot Swims Through Intestines

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  • Crohns Disease (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @09:00PM (#38709598)
    As someone with a rather severe form of Crohns Disease, this is a godsend (and I'm saying that as an atheist!). I can assure you that anyone with a similarly debilitating intestinal disorder that inevitably leads to cancer feels the same for reasons I will spare you.

    The many "score whatever funnies" that will certainly follow this story will be shamefully ignorant.
  • Re:The matrix has me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @09:06PM (#38709640)

    Okay, so... going against every warning label on the side of an MRI machine, we're going to stick something that is metallic, magnetized, and decently sized... and put it in a person, and then put that person in the machine?

    Er, ok.

    The summery stated it was copper, not iron. Aluminum is commonly used for MRI safe equipment all the time. There is copper in the coils already anyhow. As long as it's nonferrous it should be fine. My question is, how long does this procedure take? MRI time is expensive, and using it mainly as a power source will have accountants heads exploding. Unless they plan to do this at night during off peak, or times when the magnet is unused. That would make perfect sense as you are paying to keep the scanner cool 24/7 anyhow.

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @09:24PM (#38709746) Homepage

    The article says "A swallowed pill is essentially at the mercy of the movements of the GI tract. Not so with the microswimmer." Another Googled article informs me that the colon undergoes "Segmentation contractions which chop and mix the ingesta; antiperistaltic contractions propagate toward the ileum, and giant migrating contractions... a very intense and prolonged peristaltic contraction which strips an area of large intestine clear of contents." So among other things this little gadget is swimming downstream when the colon is trying to push things upstream. What does it feel like? Tickling? Gas pains?

    When you have a colonoscopy, they give you a sedative (often Midazolam), a pain-killer (often Fentanyl), and sometimes general anesthesia. Of course that's a lot more invasive, but it probably doesn't take as long because the colon is a lot shorter than your whole GI tract. Sometimes the doctor has a little trouble getting a colonscope around a tight corner. Does this thing ever get stuck and how do they deal with it?

  • Re:The matrix has me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:38PM (#38710324) Homepage Journal

    Most of the cost of an MRI is in making the magnetic fields precise enough to be used for imaging. Take away that requirement and I reckon you take away 90% of the price. Whats left is a powerful, controlable magnetic field generator.

    You could have all sorts of fun with that.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson