Scientists have successfully developed a miniature robot, drawing inspiration from the pangolin, that has the potential to navigate and perform various tasks within the human body. Designed to operate in hard-to-reach areas like the stomach and small intestine, the soft robot exhibits capabilities such as delivering cargo, generating heat, and controlling bleeding. Although the robot has only been tested on practice tissue thus far, its creators emphasize the need for further evaluation. The preliminary experiments demonstrated the robot’s ability to reach temperatures of up to 70 degrees Celsius, perform medical treatments with potential applications in cancer treatment and hemorrhage control, and deliver drugs. Magnetic soft robots made from pliable metals have long been envisioned as a valuable tool for non-invasive medical procedures. However, their development has faced challenges regarding safety and functionality.

Drawing Inspiration from the Pangolin: To address the limitations encountered in previous soft robot designs, researchers turned to the pangolin, a mammal known for its scaly exterior, which unfortunately has made it vulnerable to poaching. Rather than exploiting the pangolin’s scales for illicit purposes, scientists sought inspiration from their unique structure. The pangolin’s scales possess a flexible yet protective armor-like quality due to their overlapping arrangement. This natural adaptation enables the pangolin to move with agility and freedom. Researchers replicated this design concept in their new robots.

The Millirobot’s Unique Features: Dubbed millirobots due to their diminutive size measuring 1 cm by 2 cm by 0.2 mm, the robots incorporate the overlapping scale design observed in pangolins. Like their animal counterparts, these creations can generate heat, change shape, and roll, mimicking the movements of pangolins. The study detailing this innovation, titled “Pangolin-Inspired Untethered Magnetic Robot for On-Demand Biomedical Heating Applications,” is published in Nature Communications.

Future Implications and Further Research: The development of this pangolin-inspired robot represents a significant step forward in the field of biomedical applications. By leveraging its ability to navigate the human body magnetically, this soft robot holds the promise of performing medical procedures without the need for invasive surgery. However, the creators caution that additional testing and evaluation are necessary to ensure safety and optimize functionality. Moving forward, the researchers plan to explore the full potential of this technology, including its potential to address other medical challenges. With continued progress and validation in larger-scale studies, the untethered magnetic robot holds the potential to revolutionize biomedical interventions, opening new avenues for non-invasive treatments in the future.

Conclusion: Scientists have developed a miniature robot inspired by the pangolin, offering exciting prospects for biomedical applications. The soft robot’s ability to perform tasks such as cargo delivery, heat generation, and bleeding control has been demonstrated on practice tissue. By adopting the overlapping scale design observed in pangolins, the millirobots exhibit remarkable flexibility and maneuverability. While further testing is required, this innovation holds great promise for navigating and treating hard-to-reach areas within the human body. By drawing inspiration from nature, scientists are advancing the field of non-invasive medical procedures, paving the way for future breakthroughs in biomedical technologies.

By Impact Lab