Injectable Robots Cure Blindness

Last week, we featured a robots the size of Linnaeus, and now at the prestigious Swiss institute of ETH-Zurich, Professor Bradley Nelson has created a device that is only a millimeter long.  This micro-bot can be injected into one’s body (via standard syringes) and steered through external magnetic fields.

Dr. Nelson’s first use will be the eye, as researchers coated the micro-bots with nanospheres made of a special dye that turn the devices into oxygen sensors. When exposed to a certain wavelength of light, the dye glows. Fluorescence that fades quickly indicates a high amount of oxygen surrounding the dye; slow fading indicates low amounts of oxygen. While the miniature robots have been successfully tested to measure oxygen levels in water, the next step is to do tests on an eye. Researchers plan to inject the robots into the vitreous fluid and direct them towards the surface of the retina. Here a pulse of light would be applied and the robots’ fluorescence would be microscopically observed. To remove them, a needle would be re-inserted into the eye and the robots would be magnetically drawn to it.

The researchers have already created micro-robots that could deliver medicine or remove scar tissue from the eye, but their new oxygen-sensing robots indicate when blood flow to the eye is restricted, which can result in vision loss. Methods for gauging oxygen levels within the eye already exist, but ETH researchers claim they aren’t sensitive enough.

Some might feel a little nervous thinking that the robot inside them is part of the fantastic journey, but then again we already have so many other automated parts scattered through the human population.

Source: Gadget Magazine

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