When acquiring tissue samples for medical diagnosis, doctors have been confined to bulky and invasive instruments. Unlike the scientists in the 1966 sci-film film Fantastic Voyage, we haven’t been able to shrink a submarine and its human crew in order to let them perform some delicate surgery inside the patient body.
But with recent successful experiments, we may see doctors switching from the single forceps to hordes of so-called microgrippers.
These metal discs, each of which measures just 300 micrometers, are designed to snip small bits inside the body and to be easily retrieved by a doctor.
These sorts of developments could help extend two current trends in medicine: diagnosing diseases earlier and targeting therapies more precisely, as Bradley Nelson, professor of robotics and intelligent systems at ETH Zurich, explained. “The dream is the Fantastic Voyage” he added.
The realization of that dream will probably take some time, but the microgrippers are certainly an interesting small step in that direction.