Posted on Jun 03, 2019, 4 p.m.
Scientists from Heriot-Watt University have developed tiny shape shifting robots that can make cuts from within the body which may one day assist in complex procedures and improve patient recovery, or in some cases even replace surgeons.
The robots will be around 1 millimetre in diameter and are made out of shape memory alloy. This material will allow the robots to change their shape in response to temperature and contract to fit into tight spaces. This project which is in initial stages has potential to dramatically change the way procedures are performed, and has already received 2 years worth of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as well as from Renishaw.
“Shape memory alloys have been used to make weird and wonderful robots. At the moment in keyhole surgery, you have surgeons using some very small implements that are very difficult to use. We can replace what surgeons to do at a micro scale. You could also determine cancerous and non-cancerous tissue." says Professor Duncan Hand.
In the past researchers experimented with 3D printed spiral shaped robots that can travel through an eyeball to deliver medicine and improve treatment for eye diseases. Recently the NHS started to develop the framework for robotic surgical equipment, and have ramped up investment into technology to improve patient care and surgery.
Investment deals in healthtech have increased following the demand for technology capable of improving treatment for patients and reducing costs for operations/treatment plans.
According to Professor Shafi Ahmed there has been a plethora of robots coming into the market, "In the next five years there will be a complete change of the number of robots that will be around in terms of what they offer in terms of specialities. There is more competition, which is healthy. The price will be driven down, and it will be more affordable and more accessible, which is how we want it to be."
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.