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Miniscule motor swims through the bloodstream

January 30, 2009 Researchers from Monash University in Australia are working on microbot motors designed to swim through the human bloodstream. Dubbed the "Proteus" after the miniature submarine that traveled through the body in the 1966 sci-fi flick, Fantastic Voyage, the tiny piezoelectric motor is just 250 micrometers or a quarter of a millimetre wide - that's around 2.5 times the width of a human hair.

The motor could be injected into the bloodstream to make current methods of minimally invasive surgery such as keyhole surgery safer and more effective.

Despite the obvious advantages of minimally invasive procedures over cut and sew methods, there is still room for minimizing risk according to research team leader Professor James Friend.

"Serious damage during minimally invasive surgery is however not always avoidable and surgeons are often limited by the width of a catheter tube for example, which in serious cases, can fatally puncture narrow arteries," Professor Friend said.

The micro-motor would carry tiny cameras and sensor equipment and could access parts of the body, like a stroke-damaged artery in the brain, that are beyond the reach of catheters.

To achieve its swimming motion, the vibrating motor is attached to a spiral tail that spins at up to 1295 rpm and acts as a kind of propeller to drive the device forward in a motion similar to that used by bacterial flagella.
Intriguing news from the land of medical science. The possibilities for this little device, should they work as intended could result in diagnostics of patients to be a great deal more accurate and surgery much safer.
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