MIT Develops Digestible Origami Surgeon

A new medical device made from pig gut could be used to patch wounds, deliver medicine, or dislodge a foreign object in the stomach.

Origami Robot / Photo: Massachutes Institue of Technology Facebook
Origami Robot / Photo: Massachutes Institue of Technology Facebook

A Newsweek article dated July 19th introduced a medical device that could be the answer to retrieving foreign objects from a person’s stomach. The ingestible robot was developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the latest installment of their “origami robots."

Patients with stomach problems swallow the magnetic device, which is folded up and encapsulated in ice. When the ice melts in the stomach, the robot is released and unfolds to move about the stomach, controlled by joysticks that change the magnetic field. After performing the desired task, the robot dissolves and passes through the digestive system. Scientists tested several materials for the robot including rice paper and sugar paper before landing on the same pig intestine used for sausage casing, which has ideal structural properties for the application.

The robot has only been tested in a fabricated silicone stomach, and will need to pass animal and human trials before gaining approval from the FDA.

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