DRUGS could be delivered by microscopic, shape-shifting robots you swallow in the future, scientists believe.

Researchers have created the tiny gadgets, which are around 5mm in length and can navigate the narrow channels of the human body.

The tiny robots developed by  Swiss researchers, even change shape and speed as they travel through bendy blood vessels  and thick bodily fluids.

The engineers at ETH Zurich and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lusanne [EPPL] have released stunning footage showing the robots in action.

The robots, which are yet to be named, are made up of a gel that responds to heat, with added magnetic nanoparticles.

This allows them to to be controlled by an electromagnetic field, the authors wrote in the journal Science Advances.

Using ''Orgami design principles'', the researchers, led by Dr, Bradley Nelson, folded the gel into  3D shapes.

To make the robots move effectively, inspiration was driven from bacteria, which get from place-to-place  via a propeller like tail known as a flagellum.

This was mimicked to create an 'oar-like' extension from the nano-robot, to allow it to swim through the body.

Microorganisms also change shape to 'navigate complex environments and occupy a variety of  'ecological niches'  the authors wrote.

''Nature has evolved a multitude of microorganisms that change shape as their environmental conditions change,'' Dr. Nelson said.

''This basic principle inspired our micro-robot design.''

When tested in a sucrose solution 'with a similar viscosity to blood, the robots moved much faster compared to other prototypes,'' the authors wrote.

They also changed shape to squeeze through glass tubes with lots of bendy passages, before reverting back to to their original size. The robots must be hugely flexible if they are to travel through narrow blood vessels and dense fluids at high speeds.

''Our robots have a special composition and structure that allow them to adapt to the characteristics of the fluid they they are moving through, said Professor Selman Saker, one of the researchers. [Agencies]


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