If you’ve ever seen anybody endure chemotherapy, you know that it can be a grueling process, to say the least. But new research on tiny, 3D-printed, jelly-like robots could provide an alternative to flooding the body with poison: popping the robots inside the body to target the cancer directly. It’s an exciting development that shows the possibilities of robots that can both run automatically and deliver medicine more precisely than current methods.
By Kaleigh Rogers | MOTHERBOARD
Samuel Sia and his colleagues at Columbia University wanted to create an implantable device that was totally biocompatible—made of materials that don’t disrupt or damage living tissue—according to the research published in Science Robotics this week. They decided to use hydrogels, a type of synthetic material that has a high water content and can be adjust to be soft like human tissue or stiffer like rubber. Devices like this have been made before, but they usually also include some non-biocompatible parts to make the whole thing run, like batteries. But these little robots were designed to be totally biocompatible and self-sufficient: no batteries required.
First, the researchers had to create a method of production, so they built a custom 3D printer that could easily build up layers of hydrogels to make the little robots. A typical 3D printer would take hours to make a similar device, because the hydrogel material is a bit sloppy to work with. But their hydrogel printer made a complex mechanism in just 30 minutes.