Washington D.C: What if there was something that could help retrieve swallowed objects sans surgery? A team of scientists has developed a 'meat transformer' for the same purpose.
Researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have demonstrated a tiny origami robot that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound.
"It's really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to health care," said researcher Daniela Rus, adding "For applications inside the body, we need a small, controllable, untethered robot system. It's really difficult to control and place a robot inside the body if the robot is attached to a tether."
The researchers tested about a dozen different possibilities for the structural material before settling on the type of dried pig intestine used in sausage casings. "We spent a lot of time at Asian markets and the Chinatown market looking for materials," researcher Shuguang Li said. The shrinking layer is a biodegradable shrink wrap called Biolefin.
Every year, 3,500 swallowed button batteries are reported in the U.S. alone. Frequently, the batteries are digested normally, but if they come into prolonged contact with the tissue of the esophagus or stomach, they can cause an electric current that produces hydroxide, which burns the tissue. Miyashita employed a clever strategy to convince Rus that the removal of swallowed button batteries and the treatment of consequent wounds was a compelling application of their origami robot.
"Shuhei bought a piece of ham, and he put the battery on the ham," Rus says. "Within half an hour, the battery was fully submerged in the ham. So that made me realize that, yes, this is important. If you have a battery in your body, you really want it out as soon as possible."