In this very short article, Genome News Network (GNN) looks at the work of a Brazilian researcher, Adriano Cavalcanti, and his colleagues. Cavalcanti is working in nanorobotics, an emerging field in medicine which states that nanorobots soon will travel inside our bodies, digging for information, finding defects or delivering drugs. The GNN article contains spectacular images, and Cavalcanti's page about Nanorobotics Control Design includes additional ones. Even if the computer-generated images are impressive, please notice that real uses of nanorobots for health care will only appear progressively within the next ten years.
The GNN article is so short that I am reproducing here almost entirely, but without the images.
The future of medicine will include microscopic robots that travel around the human body, collecting information and making minor repairs. At least thatís the view of researchers who are working in the emerging field known as nanorobotics.
If their designs can be realized, "nanorobots" might one day detect and break apart kidney stones, clear plaque from blood vessels, or ferry drugs to tumor cells.
The images in the article are computer screenshots showing nanorobots in simulated environments inside the body.
All the images below belong to Adriano Cavalcanti. The two first ones come from an article featured in the Computer Graphics and Geometry Journal, "Nanosystem Design with Dynamic Collision Detection for Autonomous Nanorobot Motion Control using Neural Networks." The third one has been extracted from a research paper which will be presented at the ASME 28th Biennial Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, Salt Lake City Utah, USA, September 2004 under the name "Nanorobotics Control Design: A Practical Approach Tutorial" (PDF format, 10 pages, 1.21 MB).
||Here, a nanorobot delivers a molecule to the organ inlet -- represented by the white cylinder. (Credit: Adriano Cavalcanti)|
||This screenshot shows the molecular identification by collisions contact. (Credit: Adriano Cavalcanti)|
||And on this diagram, you can see the workflow of a nanorobot gathering information and biomolecules. (Credit: Adriano Cavalcanti)|
GNN adds that the researchers developed a program called the Nanorobot Control Design (NCD) simulator to test designs on computers and create these images.
According to Cavalcanti, "The NCD simulator consists of several modules that simulate the physical conditions, run the nanorobot control programs determining their actions, provide a visual display of the environment in 3-D, and record the history of nanorobot behaviors for later analysis."
Let's leave the conclusion to Cavalcanti on his own site mentioned above.
Initial uses of nanorobots to health care are likely to emerge within the next ten years with potentially broad biomedical applications. The ongoing developments of molecular-scale electronics, sensors and motors are expected to enable microscopic robots with dimensions comparable to bacteria.
Sources: Edward R. Winstead, Genome News Network, August 19, 2004; Computer Graphics and Geometry Journal, Vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 33-49, May 2003; Adriano Cavalcanti website and research papers