June 07, 2006

Robotic Worms

Geekologie presents its tongue-in-cheek take on the development of robotic worms for delving into your gut. A team of European scientists are taking the idea of a "camera pill" to a whole new level by mobilizing it in a freakishly eerie way.
The team has already created a few prototypes (see videos here and here), and they are currently working on a robot with a camera and a light to capture video as it travels. Unfortunately (fortunately?) the robot is going to need years of testing because, as one researcher put it, "if something this complicated goes wrong, it could be very hard to get out." I don't know why they don't just add a drilling device to the front of the robot. That way, if something goes wrong, the robot could just drill its way to freedom and safety.
I don't think that it would be that difficult "to get out." It would get packed into a bolus if subjected to regular peristalsis and come out buried in a turd. Intestinal worms have developed specialized mouths that latch onto specific parts of our guts and swim upstream constantly to avoid being pushed out before they are ready to go. Still, there are other problems that need to be overcome...

Like the "Ick!" factor. I would not want a little robotic worm squirming around in my intestines... I feel that regular parasites are enough cause for worry, thank you very much. Looking at their designs thus far, it doesn't look like it would be neatly packaged like the camera pill. Would you want to have the used version, knowing that it has gone through someone else's GI system from bowl to hole?


  1. ugh, that is pretty nasty... did you hear about those FDA-approved maggots? http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2004-07-07-leeches-maggots_x.htm

  2. hmm, that link didn't show up...

  3. I didn't hear about them getting approved, but I knew that they were being used recently because of their anti-clotting factors and ability to selectively remove necrotic tissue.

    Weird and disgusting, but if it makes patients heal faster, I'm all for sticking "biological FDA-approved medical devices" on to suck away!