Science News

Robotic worm can creep into the vascular pathways of the brain

A new kind of robotic worm was developed by a research group of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The study was published in Science Robotics.

This small robotic “worm” is structured to be able to slide through narrow and tortuous paths and the first thought goes right to the labyrinthine structure of the brain. According to the intentions of the same researchers, in fact, this microrobot, together with the already existing endovascular technologies, could be remotely guided to cross the brain vessels and to perform various medical actions, in particular for conditions such as those related to aneurysms and strokes.

As Xuanhe Zhao, a professor of mechanical and civil engineering at MIT and one of the authors of the research, explains, stroke is one of the most common diseases and one of the most deadly. It should be treated and treated immediately, possibly within the first 90 or 60 minutes from the appearance of the first symptoms, a stretch of time that Zhao himself defines as the so-called golden hour: “If we could design a device to reverse the blockage of blood vessels in this ‘golden hour’, we could potentially avoid permanent brain damage. This is our hope,” reveals the researcher.

Currently, to eliminate blood clots in brain pathways, a complicated endovascular procedure is carried out accompanied by a surgical procedure that sees the insertion of a thin wire in the main artery, usually the one in the leg or groin.

These are naturally “passive” wires, to be handled manually and which can lead to various problems even during the operation itself, for example those procured by the material of which they are made, polymer-coated metal alloys that can damage body coatings.

The new robotic wire instead boasts a nickel-titanium alloy core, or “nitinol,” a material that can resume its original shape and is more flexible when it is wound through the narrow vascular pathways.

The robotic wire is coated with a particular hydrogel which, although it does not affect the reactivity of the magnetic particles it contains, allows the wire to take advantage of a smooth and friction-free surface as well as being biocompatible.

Furthermore, the same robotic wire can be modified so that it can supply drugs, for example those to reduce the clot, or it can be equipped with laser light.