Drug-carrying robot roams through eye
18:24 10 March 2011
If you're squeamish, the thought of having a tiny robot in your eye might not appeal. But a new system designed by Michael Kummer and his team from Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems (IRIS) in Zurich, Switzerland, could lead to more effective drug delivery for conditions like age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in old people.
In the video above, you can see the microbot roam around a deceased pig's eye during a mobility experiment. It was injected with a needle and then maneuvered with a novel electromagnetic system. "The micro-devices can be thought of as magnetic drug reservoirs that can be electro-magnetically controlled to the location of interest on the retina," says Christos Bergeles, a member of the team.
Currently, the most common treatment for macular degeneration is a drug injection into the eye. But the drug quickly diffuses through the retina, requiring regular injections to keep reaching the affected regions. The robot would allow for prolonged and targeted drug release since it can remain in the eye for months. It can also be used to position a biodegradable drug capsule in the eye and then be directly removed with a magnetic needle.
So far, the device has only been tested with pig eyes taken from cadavers. But the team plans to start trials with living animals soon.
If you enjoyed this video, you might also want to see how microbots can be steered with an electric current.
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