Tiny soft starfish-like robots may someday help doctors deliver medicine or perform surgical procedures. They look a little creepy as they open and close, we’re not sure we want them swimming around inside us! But they could be very useful in the future to grab tiny things like medicine or cancer cells and carry them to different locations in the body.
These little micro-grippers are like tiny stars; a few millimeters in diameter when fully open. They are made of soft hydrogels that can dissolve when no longer needed. They have magnetic nanoparticles embedded in the hydrogel so they can be guided with a magnetic probe, as shown in the video below.
When the temperature drops below 36 degrees Celsius, the arms of the star fold inward and can be used to grasp microscopic objects such as damaged cells. Alternatively, the gripper can enter the body closed to contain objects such as medicine, then open to release it when reaching a certain location in the body. We may see creatures like this in the future delivering medicine, performing biopsies, or helping with remotely guided surgical procedures. We’ll see!
Watch the little micro-grippers move around: