Tiny Robot Walks Using Rat Heart Muscle

Similar bots may one day clear clots in blood vessels.

By Ada Brunstein|Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Scientists in Korea have designed a crablike robot that is smaller than the thickness of a fingernail and powered by contractions of cardiac tissue.

Sukho Park of Chonnam National University and a team of researchers affixed heart tissue from a rat onto the body of the robot. When the tissue contracted, the robot’s six horizontally aligned legs (see image above) pulled together. When the tissue relaxed, the legs drew apart. The pulses propelled the robot (video below) forward through a solution at 100 micrometers per second (about 0.0002 mile per hour).

The researchers hope to make other biocompatible devices that could one day carry clot-busting agents to clogged vessels. But the robot on that fantastic voyage will have to be faster and stronger than this prototype in order to force its way against flowing blood (which travels at about 2 mph).

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