medical-millirobots-offer-hope-for-less-invasive-surgeries-healthinnovationsInjections of tiny robots called “millirobots”, powered by MRI scanners, might one day be able to treat hydrocephalus and other conditions.

DOTmed News reports that researchers at the University of Houston have found a way to harness the energy from MRI scanners to power the millirobots to penetrate tissue.

To treat hydrocephalus, surgeons have to cut through the patient’s skull and implant pressure-relieving shunts. The new procedure would allow a surgeon to inject millirobots into the patient’s spinal canal using a hypodermic needle or lumbar puncture, and they would be driven out of the body by the MRI energy afterwards.

The researchers first used high-quality brain images generated from the MRI scanner to map out the routes for the millirobots. They then hacked the MRI and utilized its magnetic energy to push the millirobots to the desired location.

“The approach proposed involves navigating individual millirobots to a target location and allowing them to self-assemble in a manner that focuses the stored magnetic potential energy as kinetic energy for tissue penetration,” the researchers wrote.

The millirobots are 3-D printed and composed of high-impact plastic and slender titanium rod spacers that separate two steel balls. The MRI’s energy magnetizes the steel balls and propels them forward.

Researchers have tested the approach but the work is still conceptual at this stage. Going forward, they will explore its place in a clinical setting, miniaturizing the device, and optimizing the material components.