Miniature robots could be sent deep inside the human brain to treat disorders inaccessible by other methods, according to a California-based start-up.
Bionaut Labs plans to hold its first clinical trials on humans in two years, for its tiny injectable robots, which can be carefully guided through the brain using magnets, The Daily Mail reported.
Working with Germany's prestigious Max Planck research institutes, they settled on magnets to propel the robot because it doesn't harm the human body.
Magnetic coils placed outside the patient's skull are linked up to a computer that can remotely and delicately maneuver the micro-robot into the affected part of the brain.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the firm approval for clinical trials involving the treatment of Dandy-Walker Syndrome, as well as malignant gliomas - cancerous brain tumors often considered to be inoperable.
The idea of a micro robot that can enter the body to detect, or even treat medical conditions, is not a new one, 'it came about way before I was born,' said Bionaut Labs co-founder and CEO Michael Shpigelmacher.
One of the most famous examples is a book by Isaac Asimov and a film called 'Fantastic Voyage,' where a crew of scientists goes inside a miniaturized spaceship into the brain, to treat a blood clot.
Just as cellphones now contain extremely powerful components that are smaller than a grain of rice, the tech behind micro-robots 'that used to be science fiction in the 1950s and 60s' is now 'science fact,' said Shpigelmacher. It uses magnetic energy for propulsion - rather than optical or ultrasonic techniques - because it does not harm the body and involves magnetic coils outside the skull guiding the robots via a computer link.