Tiny Robots: The Next Great Revolution in Eye Surgery
Picking up a robot in a syringe.
This tiny device is small enough to be injected into the eye without anesthetic. And could be how eye surgery is performed in the future according to its developers.
The team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, say the size of their robots could herald a new type of non-invasive surgery.
Professor of robotics and intelligent systems at ETH is Brad Nelson says, “Our first applications are in targeted delivery, treating diseases like age-related macular degeneration or retinal vein occlusions in which we try to deliver drugs to specific locations on the retina.”
The device is essentially a tiny magnet, which is controlled by an electro-magnetic field outside the eye.
“It requires that we very precisely control the fields and the currents through our electro-magnets and being able to do that and do that in a stable, controlled fashion has been a challenge – something we’ve been able to over-come here in the last couple of years,” said Nelson.
So far, the research has used the synthetic eyes or the eyes of dead animals. This is the eye of dead pig. But they do have plans to move onto living animal trials, followed by human trials.
Nelson says, “If we can make it small enough to fit in a 23 gauge needle it can actually be injected into the eye with just topical anesthetic or even no anesthetic and it doesn’t also require a suture.”
In 1966, the science-fiction film Fantastic Voyage saw a submarine miniaturized and injected into a vein… 45 years on, it sounds less far-fetched.
Bottom line: Researchers in Switzerland are perfecting a robot small enough to be injected into your eye without anesthetic. The team says their device could carry drugs to the exact position they are needed or even carry out minor operations.