New In Surgery: Miniature Robots

This past May, we wrote an article about the future of surgery and whether or not robots had a place in that future. The article, which was titled “Are Robots The Future Of Surgery?” (Visit:, discussed a new prototype called Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot, STAR for short, which is capable of stitching up delicate tissue during surgery.

Unlike other devices that assist physicians performing certain procedures, the STAR device would act on its own without the help or control of a surgeon’s hands to complete the suturing of tissues. That way, surgeons can focus their time and attention on treating other pertinent issues occurring during the surgery. 

Recently, more health-related inventions have come into the spotlight, specifically, a miniature robot that is designed to enter the body and deliver drugs, perform precise operations, or clear up clogged arteries. While this device seems like something only future generations will enjoy, it’s becoming more and more of a reality as the development team fine-tunes a few features.

According to Bioscience Technology, scientists from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have teamed up with researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich to produce several complex, reconfigurable microrobots that look and move like a bacterium. These robots would not resemble conventional robots, but instead, be soft, flexible, and motor-less devices made of a biocompatible hydrogel and magnetic nanoparticles.

Unlike traditional robots, this new device would also be built and tested against electromagnetic fields, causing them to shift using heat. According to the article (visit:, the robot was built to mimic a bacterium that a disease known as sleeping sickness, or African trypanosomiasis. This bacterium uses a flagellum to propel itself through a person’s body. This bacterium, however, can hide once inside a person's bloodstream; this is considered a survival mechanism of the bacterium.

So far, the scientists have been able to develop a robot that has the flagellum-like capabilities to move, but when heated, can stop movement by wrapping said flagellum around the robot body. This production is just another step forward in this invention’s reality, and currently, the team is trying to figure out whether or not this device will cause any side effects in patients.

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The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.