These robotic tentacles could travel into the lungs to treat cancer

1 min read


Scientists have developed tiny robotic tentacles that travel into the lungs to detect and treat cancer.

The device is just 2.4 mm in diameter and ultra-soft.  It’s sent to the periphery of the lungs from the end of a bronchoscope — a thin tube with a light and camera.

During the journey, magnets adapt the robot’s shape to the body’s anatomy. As it moves, both its form and position and form are fed back to a clinician. After reaching its destination, an embedded laser fibre can deliver localised treatment.

The robot was developed at the University of Leeds’ STORM lab, which tested the system on a cadaver. They found that it can travel 37% deeper than standard equipment, while causing less tissue damage.

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“This new approach has the advantage of being specific to the anatomy, softer than the anatomy and fully shape-controllable via magnetics,” said Professor Pietro Valdastri, director of the STORM Lab, in a statement. “These three main features have the potential to revolutionise navigation inside the body.”

a Overview of magnetic tentacle delivery bronchoscope and actuation system comprised of two robotic arms, each controlling the pose of an external permanent magnet (EPM). b Magnetic tentacle deployment and laser delivery to a targeted tumor. c Illustration of the tentacle delivery system and sensing. d Schematic of the magnetic tentacle showing the integrated shape sensing Fiber Bragg Grating (FBG) and laser fiber.