Researchers Develop Magnetically Controlled Microscopic Robots to Fight Cancer

Researchers at Philips Innovative Technologies in Hamburg, Germany have developed magnetically controlled microscopic robots that could one day be used to cure cancer.

“Our method may enable complex manipulations inside the human body,” Jürgen Rahmer, lead author of the study “Spatially selective remote magnetic actuation of identical helical micromachines” told Live Science.

The use of magnetic devices is nothing new in the medical field. This technology has been used in medical applications such as navigating a catheter inside the heart and in steering a video capsule inside the gastrointestinal tract. Magnetic control has also been proven in objects as little as few micrometers.

In the study published by the Journal Science Robotics, the researchers at Philips Innovative Technologies wrote, “For many therapeutic scenarios, a large team of micromachines is required, but a convincing approach for controlling individual team members is currently missing.”

The Philips Innovative Technologies researchers demonstrated that it is possible to individually control a large number of tiny robots. These individually controlled microscopic robots, according to the researchers, have high potential to be used in local therapy delivery. “Magnetic micromachines can be controlled remotely inside the human body by application of external magnetic fields, making them promising candidates for minimally invasive local therapy delivery,” the researchers added.

These microscopic robots can be specifically be used for radiation treatment in cancer therapy based on selective switching of radioactive sources distributed inside a tumor, the Philips Innovative Technologies researchers said.