MIT creates ingestible origami robot to mend stomachs

Researchers have created a minuscule origami robot that unfolds itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by external magnetic fields, moves across the stomach wall to remove swallowed objects or patch wounds.

The development is led by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Sheffield and Tokyo Institute of Technology, according to MIT News.

Each year, 3,500 cases of swallowed button batteries are reported in the U.S. While the batteries are often digested normally, prolonged contact in the esophagus or stomach creates an electrical charge, which produces hydroxide that burns the tissue. Shuhei Miyashita, a member of the research team, suggested that a robot could retrieve these batteries and treat wounds.

The rectangular shape of the robot, along with its accordion folds, allows researchers to compress the device into a pill. Once the capsule dissolves inside the body, the robot unfolds itself and relies on a "stick-slip" motion to move by sticking to a surface through frictions and slipping free by flexing its body to change weight distribution. Researchers control the robot's motion through a permanent magnet on the device, which responds to changing magnetic fields outside the body.

The research will be presented this week at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation.

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