Bioengineers Are Working on Robots That Can Self-Navigate Inside the Body


Scientists are now making robots that can navigate themselves inside the human body in search of diseases that affect the person / Photo by: melvil via Wikimedia Commons


The future of robotics is becoming more and more tied to the intent of it closely being used in the healthcare industry even as it continues to become an integral part of the manufacturing industry. Bioengineers, in particular, are now even working to make automated robots that have the ability to self-navigate inside the human body.

As bioengineers from the Boston Children’s Hospital share their work with Science Robotics, Tech Xplore discusses how these robots will be designed to “find its way along the walls of a beating, blood-filled heart to a leaky valve—without a surgeon’s guidance.”

Although that sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, these bioengineers are proving that it could actually work. They tested the device through a highly demanding procedure called the “paravalvular aortic leak closure,” a process that “repairs replacement heart valves that have begun leaking around the edges.”

The technology used an optical touch sensor that senior investigator Pierre Dupont, Ph.D., chief of Pediatric Cardiac Bioengineering at Boston Children’s Hospital, made in his lab. The robotic catheter was then given the map of the cardiac anatomy and was equipped with information funneled in through artificial intelligence (AI) and image processing algorithms to make sure that the robot doesn’t get lost inside the body.

In all of the subsequent trials, the experiment proved to be successful, managing to complete the procedure in around the same time a surgeon with a joystick-controlled robot could.

This offers great potential for the future of healthcare and for the future of other surgeries conducted inside the body. For one thing, having a self-navigating bot that can do the work of a surgeon through a remote-controlled one lowers the risk of patients being exposed to radiation, which they have to go through in fluoroscopic imaging, which is commonly done before an operation.