Researchers from Korea's Hanyang University in Seoul and Chonnam National University in Gwangju announced that micro-robots, as envisioned, might be able to travel throughout the human bloodstream to help treat diseases in the future with the help of a new steering system.

Possibly introducing a new therapeutic technology, researchers hope these microbots that are less than one millimeter in size will one day be able travel throughout the human bloodstream “to deliver drugs to specific targets or seek out and destroy tumors, blood clots, and infections that can't be easily accessed in other ways.”

One of the main challenges in microbot deployment is developing a system to accurately maneuver them through the circulatory system.

But the researchers described a new navigation system to help steer these micro-robots, in the AIP's Proceedings of the 56th Annual Conference on Magnetism and Magnetic Materials in the journal of Applied Physics.

They explained that the system uses an external magnetic field to generate two distinct types of microbot movements.

  • “Helical, or corkscrew-like, motions, which propel the microbots forward or backward, or even allow them to dig into blood clots or other obstructions.”
  • “Translational, or side-to-side motions, which allow the 'bots to, for example, veer into one side of a branched artery.”

The research team used this system during lab tests and accurately steered a microbot through an artificial blood vessel filled with water.

The researchers said that the work can be continued to the "precise and effective manipulation of a microbot in several organs of the human body, such as the central nervous system, the urinary system, the eye, and others."