Univ. Maryland's maggot-like brain robots
"Researchers from the University of Maryland are working on a tiny, maggot-like robot that can crawl into brains and zap tumors from within.The idea first came to , a neurosurgeon and professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, while he was watching TV. He saw plastic surgeons use sterile maggots to remove damaged tissue from a patient. "It sounds strange, but it's a real thing," Simard says. And that's when he had the idea. "If I could train maggots to resect brain tumors I would," he says. "I can't do that, so robotic maggots are the next best thing."
He teamed up with , a roboticist at the University of Maryland in College Park, and radiologist to create a working prototype. They call it MINIR — Minimally Invasive Neurosurgical Intracranial Robot. The wormy, multijointed prototype is about a half-inch wide, and aimed to be MR-compatible. A surgeon might someday insert a small tube leading to the site of the tumor, then send a robot crawling in. The doctor would control the robot remotely while watching its progress on MRI scans.The project is funded by the National Institutes of Health. So far, Simard says, they've successfully tested the device in pig cadavers. The researchers says they'll be ready test on humans within three to five years. The latest prototype uses a system of pulleys and cables, but he's also looking into using a special type of nonmagnetic motor."
Read more on the project's website, or on Medgadget. Watch more prototypes on the Robotics, Automation, and Medical Systems (RAMS) Laboratory's site.