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Microrobot swims through eyes to deliver drugs

Open up those peepers and get a full shot of robot. Scientists are working on tiny machines that can be directed through the eyes to treat conditions like macular degeneration.

The microrobot sits on the vein of a chorioallantoic membrane in a chicken embryo, a model for retinal veins. IRIS

Is that a speck in your eye? Or just a microrobot helping preserve your vision? Researchers are working on tiny machines that can be directed through eyes to help treat conditions like macular degeneration, which can impair vision.

Scientists at the Swiss-based Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems (IRIS) led by Bradley Nelson are developing tiny, electromagnetically controlled microrobots that can move to a target location in the eye and remain there for months, releasing drugs.

The therapy is seen as an alternative to multiple eye injections to treat macular degeneration, which can lead to legal blindness. In the New Scientist vid below, the robot is seen moving in an eye taken from a dead pig.

The microbots can also position a biodegradable drug capsule before they are removed with a magnetic needle.

Nelson, whose group is part of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH), said commercialization of the technology is being explored. He would not speculate on how much an eye-bot might cost.

Doubtless our bodies will soon be teeming with microrobots, and our eyes will be enhanced. I just want a Bionic Power Arm, a la Steve Austin.