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Robotic Medical Implants

January 9, 2017

Magnets trigger biocompatible robotic gears that deliver drugs safely within the body.



Robotic drug delivery. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Inspired by the gears in old-fashioned toys and watches, Columbia University biomedical engineer Sau Yin Chin and her colleagues have designed implantable robotic devices that could deliver drugs safely and precisely in the body. They’re made from non-toxic materials called hydrogels, which form miniature rubber-like components.

SAU YIN CHIN (Columbia University; now at the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research in Singapore):

What we have done is to create gears that contain tiny compartments in which you can load drugs, and after the device has been implanted we can actuate it using a magnet to release the drugs dose-by-dose.


In Science Robotics, Chin reports that when implanted with chemotherapy drugs next to cancerous tumors in mice, the device delivered the same benefit as conventional treatment, but with fewer side effects. It could also be used for hormonal therapy and other treatments which require fine-tuning over time. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard