Edible Robots: Researchers from Switzerland Work to Deliver Medicines in the Intestinal Tract

We know that robots play a key role in medicine by helping to conduct surgery by being able to conduct more precise and predictable movements than a surgeon as well as in pacemakers that can help regulate a person’s heartbeat. The healthcare industry spent $4.5 billion in 2016, according to IDC. But that’s only the beginning. In fact, the amount spent on robots is expected to grow as new types of robots are used in hospitals and clinics, globally.

So what is new in robots? Edible robots that can deliver medicine or conduct other medical procedures. In particular, we may find them crawling around inside our intestinal tract say researchers from Intelligent Systems Laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, which was led by graduate student Jun Shintake.

How do they work? These tiny edible and digestible robotics are made of gelatin. Actuators are what is responsible for their movement. However, they are not made like the typical metal robots powered by a motor. Instead, what causes these edible gelatin actuators to move is air or chemicals. The research talks about combining these actuators with other advancements in edible electronics. What might that look like? Perhaps the might be batteries that can safely pass through a digestive tract, or chips and cameras that can be ingested. These could make for a fully edible robot says Recode.

École hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland poised to make different kinds of food substances that may be ingested and roboticized. Are there any ingestible electronics on the market? Yes, and they include pills with ingestible sensors on them that can track patient’s compliance with taking medication. Often what affects someone’s ability to recover from a situation is their ability to comply with what is prescribed. And as humans, we sometimes forget to take very things that will help us. In addition, there are some robots that contain a camera that is small enough to be swallowed and record activity in a person’s digestive tract to help diagnosis issues that scopes can’t detect, like bleeding.

So as our ability to detect what’s going on in the body gets more sophisticated, so do the robots designed to help us heal. What will be next? It’s difficult to tell, but always interesting to see what scientists will discover!

@DrNatalie Petouhoff

VP, Program Executive | Innovation and Transformation Center (ITC), Salesforce.com

 
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