Episode 7 - Robots: Bacteria-Propelled Microrobots

Episode 7 - Robots: Bacteria-Propelled Microrobots

Postby Sabine Hauert on 29 Aug 2008, 10:19

In this episode we look at bacteria-propelled micro robots which, in the future, could be used for sensing or drug delivery inside the liquid environments of the human body, such as the urinary tract, eyeball cavity, ear and cerebrospinal fluid. With Prof. Metin Sitti from Carnegie Mellon University, we'll be hearing about the science and challenges behind harnessing living organisms to robots at the micro-scale. Gastronenterologist Dr. Mark Schatnerr then gives us his medical view on in-body robots and how they could by useful in his day-in, day-out tasks.

Metin Sitti
Prof. Metin Sitti is the director of the Nanorobotics Laboratory at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, USA.

With all the micro and nano scale technologies swimming, crawling, running and climbing out of his lab, he's become an expert at mimicking the physics of the tiny exhibited by natural systems such as climbing geckos, water-running lizards or water striders. Previously featured in a Talking Robots interview, these bio-inspired technologies have pushed the limits of today's robot locomotion.

One of Sitti's aim is now to miniaturize a robot to the microscale, so that it can in the future navigate in the human body for directed drug-delivery and sensing. However, instead of building the locomotion in hardware, he decided to attach a robot to an organism, which was already perfectly capable of flagellating through liquid: bacteria. In this episode we concentrate on Sitti's latest developments in bacteria-propelled micro-robots and how they can be controlled by changing their chemical environment

In other related projects, Sitti is currently developing an endoscopinc microcapsule which will be able to stick to a patients intestin on demand.

Mark Schattner
Dr. Mark Schattner is a gastroenterologist with a special interest in therapeutic endoscopy and specialized nutrition support for cancer patients at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

He gives us his medical view on how robots could in the future be useful to ensure non-invasive diagnosis and treatment for his patients with concrete applications and examples. Interestingly, the barriers in getting these robots out of the labs and into the clinics are not so much ethical, bit just like any other new medical technology, the lengthy pipeline to prove it's safeness and and usefulness in human beings.

Links:
Metin Sitti's Homepage: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~msitti/
The NanoRobotics Lab: http://nanolab.me.cmu.edu/
Mark Schattner's Homepage: http://www.mskcc.org/prg/prg/bios/664.cfm
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: http://www.mskcc.org/44
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Sabine Hauert
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