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Surprising Science

‘Living’ Micro-Robot Will Detect Human Disease

A robot designed to mimic the biology of a lamprey may soon be swimming through your body, with the capacity to detect the presence of diseases better than your immune system.

What’s the Latest Development?

British and American scientists are working to build a tiny robot that mimics the biology of a sea lamprey, found mainly in the Atlantic Ocean. Dubbed ‘Cyberplasm’, scientist want the machine to “have an electronic nervous system and ‘eye’ and ‘nose’ sensors derived from mammalian cells, as well as artificial muscles that use glucose as an energy source to propel it.” Initially, the size of the robot will be less than 1cm in length but scientists want to reduce the size to less than 1mm, perhaps making it  nano-sized as technology advances. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Biomimicry, though complex, would produce machines as well suited to their environment as animalsno small achievement when it comes to understanding our world. “Nothing matches a living creature’s natural ability to see and smell its environment and therefore to collect data on what’s going on around it,” said bioengineer Dr. Daniel Frankel of Newcastle University, who is leading the UK-based work. Applications for the technology include swimming through the body to detect disease or advancing prostheses by developing artificial muscle tissue which responds realistically to its environment.  

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