Spiral robot swims in blood vessels to break blood clots

Scientists have developed a tiny robot that can be manipulated to deliver drugs to specific locations in the blood vessels.

In the future, blood clots could be cleaned up thanks to tiny robots carrying drugs that swim through blood vessels, Mail on January 11 reported. New research published in the journal ACS Nano.

Picture 1 of Spiral robot swims in blood vessels to break blood clots
Illustration of blood clot and tiny spiral robot.

The team of engineers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong developed this robot model with inspiration from the tails of bacteria such as E. coli. The tiny robot is twisted like a screw. It is controlled by an external magnetic field and has the ability to move forward or reverse the blood flow.

Tests in fake blood vessels containing pig blood showed that the robot made tissue plasminogen activator (used to dissolve blood clots) more than five times more effective than normal. The robot's motor helps circulate the drug around the site of the blockage, helping to better break up blood clots and reducing the risk of large debris. This is a risk that occurs when drugs are used alone and can lead to additional bottlenecks "downstream".

Since it is difficult to control the robot to travel long distances in the body, the new method would be more suitable for blood clots in an easily accessible location, according to the team.

"The spiral robot is like a propulsion device, so it can transport goods from point A to point B. You can also have it do other things than deliver drugs, like stem cell-based therapies, or local heating to kill cancer cells," said Li Zhang, a roboticist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a member of the research team.

When testing in the laboratory, to monitor the robot's operation in the prosthetic blood vessel, Zhang and colleagues used Doppler ultrasound monitoring, specifically measuring the reflection of sound waves traveling through the blood. .

Initial research has been completed and the team is looking to conduct further tests with the tiny robot in more lifelike environments. They will also work to demonstrate that the robot can be used safely in a patient's bloodstream.