The idea of injecting small robots into the human brain for therapeutic operations was science fiction, but it could be thanks to an American startup.
In two years, Pioneut Labs plans to conduct its first human clinical trial to test small, injectable robots that can be controlled in the brain using magnetic technologies.
“The idea for a little robot came before I was born,” says Michael Spiegelmaker, co-founder and CEO of the company. About a team of scientists going through small tissues in the brain to treat blood clots.
After the technology that gave rise to the idea of small robots “like science fiction in the 1950s and 1960s”, according to Spiegelmaker, it is now a “scientific fact” that cell phones have a grain the size of powerful components. Rice.
“We want to make the old idea a reality,” the 43-year-old told AFP during a tour of his company’s research and development center in Los Angeles.
Michael Spiegelmaker (AFP archive)
The company, which works with renowned Max Planck research institutes in Germany, relies on magnetic energy to operate robots without the use of optical or ultrasonic techniques because the technology is not harmful to the human body. .
The magnetic coils, which are placed outside the patient’s brain, are connected to a computer which remotely and precisely controls a small robot which is injected into the affected area of the brain before being removed in the same way.
And the whole device can be easily moved, unlike the MRI device which requires 10 to 100 times less electricity.
The simulation, provided by AFP, is a small ball-shaped metal roller a few millimeters long that slowly follows a pre-planned path through a bowl filled with gel as dense as a human brain.
When approaching a bag filled with blue liquid, the robot pushes very fast like a rocket and enters the bag and exits the liquid.
The inventors also hope to use the robot to enter fluid-filled sacs into brains when medical experiments begin in two years.
If successful, the technique could be used to treat Dandy Walker syndrome, a rare brain disorder that affects children. Patients with this congenital condition suffer from golf ball-sized sacs, which amplify and increase pressure on the brain, causing dangerous neurological conditions.
The company has already tested its robots on large animals such as sheep and goats, and “data has shown that this technology is safe for humans,” says SpiegelMaker.
If approved for use, robots could offer significant advantages over existing therapies for brain disorders.
Spiegelmaker claims that microbot technology “allows reaching unattainable goals and aiming again and again on the path that offers the highest level of security”.
As minor surgery
Notably, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year approved a company that is paving the way for clinical trials to treat malignant gliomas such as Dandy Walker syndrome and cancerous brain tumors. .
In a recent experiment, small robots were used to inject anti-cancer drugs directly into brain tumors in “micro-surgery”.
Spikemaker, current treatments focus on targeting the whole body with the drug, which leads to dangerous side effects and the drug loses its effectiveness.
Small robots can provide information about measurements and tissue samples in the brain.
“The Sphere Rises”
The company, which has about 30 employees, has discussed with its partners the use of its technology to treat Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and other diseases affecting the brain such as strokes.
“As far as I know, we are the first commercial company to design this type of product with a ‘clear clinical trial pathway,’ says Spiegelmasher. …the field is rising.”