Remember that oldish science-fiction movie “Innerspace” about a miniaturized pilot in a miniaturized vessel mistakenly placed into a body of a wrong person? It may pretty soon become everyday reality, as the development of medical nanorobots is in its full bloom. And so is one of such researches on artificial intelligence that has taken one more step toward making medical treatment more efficient and easy.
More to the point, researchers at the University of Illinois have produced miniaturized locomotive walking machines using their new specialized 3D printing technology. Nicknamed by the team “bio-bots”, these biological machines have a multi-material structure: their base structure represents a hydrogel cantilever design just seven by two millimeters in size, which in its turn is seeded by neonatal rat heart cells. As a result, the heart cells cover the hydrogel cantilever and begin beating, which produces controlled forward movement of the bio-bots. It's as fantastic as it sounds!
For now, the bio-bots are moving forward at a constant speed of only 236 micrometers per second; however, the researchers are looking to be able to control the biological machine's movements manually or direct its movement in some other way. “Our goal is to see if we can get this thing to move toward chemical gradients, so we could eventually design something that can look for a specific toxin and then try to neutralize it,” said Rashid Bashir, one of the engineers and director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory. “Now you can think about a sensor that’s moving and constantly sampling and doing something useful, in medicine and the environment. The applications could be many, depending on what cell types we use and where we want to go with it.”
If anything, this amazing invention shows how incredible the human brain is. This thing, considered merely science fiction only yesterday (Innerspace came out in 1987, remember?), could be introduced to people in the nearest future. To think that one day you could just inject yourself with healing robots and stay healthy throughout your entire life, for two or three hundred years – that's mind-boggling, perhaps, but it's a weirdly comforting thought nonetheless.