/A tiny jellyfish robot could swim inside the bladder to deliver drugs

A tiny jellyfish robot could swim inside the bladder to deliver drugs

The jellyfish robot

The jellyfish robot

Ren et al.

A tiny jellyfish-like robot could one day swim through the body to deliver drugs to the right location.

Metin Sitti and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany designed a robotic jellyfish that can swim, burrow and transport objects. It is 3 millimetres in diameter, roughly the size of a baby jellyfish.

It consists of a central body and eight bendable flaps that can beat upwards and downwards in unison. They beat roughly 150 times per minute, also similar to that of baby jellyfish, and are extended by flippers that help the robot propel through water.

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For buoyancy, the robot’s body contains a small air bubble. Each of its flaps is made of silicone rubber that has been embedded with magnetic microparticles of neodymium-iron-boron.

By applying magnetic fields in different directions and at different speeds, the team can steer the robot and changes its behaviour.

For example, the robot can burrow into a pile of beads, or use its flaps to pull small beads of different sizes underneath its body and transport them with it as it swims.

One potential application is to use these tiny swimmers to carry drugs to certain parts of the body, says Setti. The bots could be delivered via a catheter to a tumour in the bladder, for example.

The robots could be made of materials that degrade naturally in the body after several months and can be excreted, says Setti. However, there may be cheaper and easier alternatives to the technology.

Journal reference: Nature Communications,  10.1038/s41467-019-10549-7 https://nature.com/articles/s41467-019-10549-7

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