Robotic caterpillar to deliver drugs inside human body; But how safe it will be?

The world is moving towards a highly technologically advanced era. From space business to health, people are looking forward to achieving unbelievable heights of success. The new candidate of this tech race is a tiny robot caterpillar that could be used to deliver drugs inside the human body. But, how safe and trustworthy this tech will be?

The robotic caterpillar with hundreds of less than one millimetre long pointed legs, not only has an ability like a human to lift a 26-seat mini bus but also as per the researchers, it is capable of adapting to an adverse environment that would help the medical science to become more advanced.

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) researchers had studied the leg structure of hundreds of ground animals with two to eight and above legs. The author of this study Assistant Professor Shen Yajing, of CityU's Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), has stated that "Most animals have a leg-length to the leg-gap ratio of 2:1 to 1:1. So we decided to create our robot using a 1:1 proportion."

While the tiny robot's body thickness measures around 0.15 mm including each conical leg measuring 0.65 mm long, the gap between its legs measuring around about 0.6 mm and its leg-length-to-gap ratio is around 1:1. The laboratory test results have shown that the robot has 40 times less friction than a limbless robot in wet as well as in dry surrounding.

In addition, Dr Shen stated that this tiny digital caterpillar is fabricated with a silicon material called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and embedded with magnetic particles.

Professor Wang Zuankai, who conceived this idea said that both the materials and the multi-leg design "greatly improve the robot's hydrophobic property. Besides, the rubber piece is soft and can be cut easily to form robots of various shapes and sizes for different applications."

The researchers used a magnetic manipulator to control the robot during the experiment and it was noticed that the tiny robot can use its front feet to flap forward and swing the body by standing on the left as well as can use the right feet alternately to advance respectively.

While such technology is believed to be a helpful tool for the next generation of medical science, it could also raise safety and malfunction related questions that would cause a disaster. Many Sci-Fi lovers have seen how technology could destroy a family, a person, an entire nation and even could cause a death in movies. A Netflix series called 'Black Mirror' showed the pros and cons of a technologically advanced society. One of its episode, 'Hated in the Nation' has shown that how robotic bees were hacked and used as a tool for mass killing. Such incidents could take place in reality, if required precautions and tests were avoided in the initial stage.

In real life also, when it comes to the health sector, a famous documentary, 'The Bleeding Edge,' clearly showed that how this fast-growing medical device industry has destroyed several lives and left the patients to face the consequences of medical negligence.

Making something revolutionary for the better future of humans and the upcoming generation is definitely required, but such minor mistakes and negligence could cause a lot.

This article was first published on September 26, 2018
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