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MIT develops thread-like robot that can slip through brain’s blood vessels

Scientists at MIT have developed a thread-like robot that can be steered using magnets and slip through the brain’s blood vessels. 

The university’s website reports that, in the future, this “robotic thread” may be paired with existing endovascular technologies, enabling doctors to remotely guide the robot through a patient’s brain vessels to quickly treat blockages and lesions, such as those that occur in aneurysms and stroke.

Xuanhe Zhao, associate professor of mechanical engineering and of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, says: “Stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.

“If acute stroke can be treated within the first 90 minutes or so, patients’ survival rates could increase significantly.

“If we could design a device to reverse blood vessel blockage within this ‘golden hour’, we could potentially avoid permanent brain damage. That’s our hope.”

Zhao and his team, including lead author Yoonho Kim, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, describe their soft robotic design in the journal Science Robotics.

The paper’s other co-authors are MIT graduate student German Alberto Parada and visiting student Shengduo Liu.

Main picture: The robotic thread, in black, that can be steered magnetically and is small enough to work through narrow spaces such as the vasculature of the human brain. Credit: MIT researchers