The tiny swimming robot that will check your health from INSIDE your body
Robot will respond to light and chemicals like a living organism



09:52 GMT, 30 March 2012

A tiny robot that resembles a nightmarish sea creature is being developed that could one day help pinpoint diseases from inside the human body.

Scientists from Newcastle University are basing the robot on the sea lamprey – a jawless fish that has a primitive nervous system.

Primitive: The robot will have a basic nervous system like the sea lamprey (pictured)

Primitive: The robot will have a basic nervous system like the sea lamprey (pictured)

Called 'Cyberplasm,' it will have its own electronic nervous system, 'eye'
and 'nose' sensors derived from living cells, as well as artificial
muscles propelled with energy derived from glucose.

Cyberplasm's sensors will respond to external stimuli such as light and chemicals by converting them into electronic impulses that are sent to a 'brain' equipped with sophisticated microchips.

The brain
will then send electronic messages to artificial muscles telling them
how to contract and relax, enabling the robot to navigate its way safely
using an undulating motion.

The prototype will be less than 1cm long but future versions could potentially be less than 1mm long or even built on a nanoscale.

The team hopes that one day it Cyberplasm will be able to swim unobtrusively through the human body to detect a whole range of diseases.

'Nothing matches a living creature's natural ability to see and smell
its environment and therefore to collect data on what's going on around
it,' said bioengineer Dr Daniel Frankel of Newcastle University, who is heading the UK team.

The technology is reminiscent of the tiny submarine from the 1987 film Innerspace

The technology is reminiscent of the tiny submarine that swam through from the 1987 film Innerspace

As it swims through the body the robot would collect and store information on its surroundings for later recovery by doctors.

'We're currently developing and testing Cyberplasm's individual
components', says Dr Frankel.

'We hope to get to the assembly stage
within a couple of years. We believe Cyberplasm could start being used
in real-world situations within five years'.

The robot is being developed as part of an international collaboration funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the UK and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the USA.