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November 25, 2016

Tiny, untethered microgrippers could track down and retrieve hard-to-reach tissue samples.


A microgripper near the opening of an endoscopic catheter. Evin Gultepe, Gracias Lab, Johns Hopkins University

(A microgripper near the opening of an endoscopic catheter. (Evin Gultepe, Gracias Lab/Johns Hopkins University)


Grabby little hands. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A star-shaped little hand the size of a dust speck could one day travel through our bodies and grab a single tumor cell for a biopsy. The little grippers are the brainchild of Johns Hopkins biomolecular engineer David Gracias and his team.

DAVID GRACIAS (University of Illinois):

And these are made using the same processes used to make microchips, and they have tiny finger-like digits, we have shown that we can actually biopsy cells in the gastrointestinal tract of live animals.


Gracias described the technology at the AVS conference in Nashville. He says traditional biopsies can sample only a few areas of tissue, and can’t access some parts of the body. But microgrippers could be deployed anywhere by the hundreds to get many samples, giving them a better chance of making an accurate diagnosis. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon