Nanometer-Sized Robots Can Now Take Colon Biopsies

Researchers have invented a non-invasive way for thousands of nanometer-sized robots to perform tissue biopsies. Developed by Professor David Gracias at Johns Hopkins University, these starfish-shaped robots are able to enter the body, collect a minuscule tissue sample, then be extracted by a doctor.

These tiny devices are made of materials that react to things like temperature, pH level, and even certain enzymes. Once this material comes into contact with its designated stimuli, it reacts and changes shape, essentially allowing the tiny robot to “grab” a small piece of tissue.

For example, thousands of robots made of a material that react to warm temperature could be inserted into the colon. These devices will eventually come into contact with warm tissue, and change shape in order to collect a tissue sample.

While not all of the robots will successfully take a sample, the researchers say that about one-third of them will successfully capture tissue, which is more than enough for an accurate sample.

The team has successfully tested the technology in animal colons as they prepare to start human trials. Eventually, the team will work on creating versions that can perform biopsies in the brain, bloodstream, and even more locations throughout the body.