Tomorrow's medicine may look like a tiny spider

Tiny Spider Robot, MD.


Imagine you’re heading into surgery. You’re wheeled into the operating room. You’re placed under anesthesia. The Doctor and nurses are milling about. And, as you start to relax, you hear someone say that they’re going to begin by releasing the spiders.

This is an exaggeration intended for comic effect, but it’s the gist of what was concocted at The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering (which is part of Harvard University) in Boston, Massachusetts. A small team has created a proof of concept “soft, animal-inspired robot[...] [in the hopes that they] can be safely deployed in difficult-to-access environments, such as inside the human body or in spaces that are too dangerous for humans to work.”

Take a look for yourself: 

Here’s how it works: the robot starts off flat: then — depending on the task at hand — fluid (UV-curable resin) is pumped into the robot. It slowly begins to gain shape, and — if the video is any indication as to how it looks in real life — one could say that the ‘spider’ looks like a piece of origami coming to life. (If you read the paper published in conjunction with the testing of the robot, you’ll note that the robot — designed after a peacock spider — is referenced as ‘microfluidic origami for reconfigurable pneumatic/hydraulic.’) When the robot is exposed to UV light, the resin solidifies, locking what’s dubbed the ‘actuators’ (as in — things that can be moved, i.e., the abdomen, head, jaw, and legs) in a certain position. Those locked ‘actuators’ can then be further moved through water that’s pumped into the robot. 

“The idea of designing and fabricating a soft robot inspired by the peacock spider comes from the fact that this small insect embodies a large number of unsolved challenges in soft robotics,” Tommaso Ranzani the lead author of the paper told Popular Science.

Which isn’t to say that previous instances of soft robotics didn’t have noteworthy elements of their own:

In short: there is variety. The future of these robots created at Wyss will be in seeing them “perform delicate surgical tasks at scales well under what’s currently possible for soft robots” — something that is currently at the stage in which individuals are envisioning its future and enter into environments that other robots let alone humans couldn’t enter and explore. 

 

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Keep reading Show less
Sponsored

How to bring more confidence to your conversations

Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.

content.jwplatform.com
Videos
  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
  • Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
  • There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.
Keep reading Show less

Bespoke suicide pods now available for death in style

Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.

The Sarco assisted suicide pod
Technology & Innovation

Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco! 

Keep reading Show less

Scientists find a horrible new way cocaine can damage your brain

Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.

Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
  • Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
  • Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Keep reading Show less