A Wireless Robot to Ease Your Digestion 

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have developed a wireless device or a robotic prototype that mimics the muscular movements.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have developed a wireless device or a robotic prototype that mimics the muscular movements in the esophagus and small intestine. 

This soft robotic prototype is controlled by strong magnets through an external wearable device to help patients who suffer from blockages in the esophagus and the small intestine due to tumors or even those who need tubular support. 

Game Changer Treatment 

Traditionally, such support are metal tubes used for patients with esophageal cancer, who face the risk of food being blocked from entering the stomach. For that reason, this new robotic device operates by replicating the waves like muscle contractions that occur in tubular organs. It aims to enhance the quality of life of the patients. 

The study was led by Xiaoguang Dong, an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, in collaboration with Dr. Rishi Naik, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. 

 They wrote in a paper in the journal Advanced Functional Materials that this device “paves the way for next-generation robotic medical devices to improve the quality of life especially for the aging population.” 

Dong added that further enhancements to the robotic device could lead to use it in various biological processes, such as the transmission of human eggs from the ovaries when fallopian tubes are not functioning properly. 

According to Dong and the team, “Magnetically actuated soft robotic pumps that can restore peristalsis and seamlessly integrate with medical stents have not been reported before.” 

The device is made of soft sheets embedded with magnets that are set in parallel rows. The role of the magnets is to move in a wave-like motion to generate the rotational pressure required for the pumping of various solid and liquid materials. 

Final Thoughts 

The robotic prototype device is designed to assist suffering people and make the treatment process easier for both physicians and patients. Given it is controlled wirelessly, there are considerations related to its reliability and safety.  

In case the connection is lost, could this device be disrupted, potentially leading to serious complications for patients? 

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