Combination of Machinery and Medication
Jang Gun-hee (Department of Mechanical Engineering)
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Diseases such as myocardial infarction, which are related to the blockage of blood vessels, are threatful diseases to both the suffering patients and the doctors who cure them. As vessels require great sensitivity and attention in the process of treatment, professor Jang Gun-hee (Department of Mechanical Engineering) proposed an alternative way in his article: ‘Magnetic Helical Robot for Targeted Drug-Delivery in Tubular Environments.'
“Once one’s blood vessel is blocked, doctors have to use a thin tube made of medical grade materials, called a catheter,” Jang started off. With the catheter, doctors have to push it through the vessel to find the blocked area, inject a liquid for dissolution, then drill it out. This process itself is indeed difficult as they mostly have to depend on a doctor's experience and skills. However, doctors face another difficulty, with their own health affected during the procedure. "Doctors have to face countless radiation when curing a patient, since they have to keep track of the position of the catheter though x-rays. The doctors even wear clothes made of lead to obstruct the radiation, but still is not enough,” explained Jang. In order to solve this dangerous progress, Jang’s research team created a micro robot.
This micro robot is made to swim within a vessel of seven to eight millimeters, to transport and emit the designated drug to the intended spot to dissolute the clot, and to drill itself on the clot, just as the catheter would do. This micro robot is moved by the magnetic field created outside of the body, allowing the doctors to be less exposed to radiation. Jang commented, “Once this method is in commercialization, doctors would be able to remote control the robots outside of the operating room, while having better controls within the surgery.”
From the midst of the interview, Jang explained the motivation of his research. “My mother’s coronary artery had been blocked 10 years ago and, doctors, therefore, had to insert a few catheters in her body. As this is a genetic phenomenon, I gave attention to the process and then realized the difficulties of these surgeries,’ reminisced Jang. Studies on magnetic robots have been ongoing since the past, especially in Switzerland and Germany. However, their research was mostly concentrated on the swimming itself, while Jang’s research team had to make the robot in command of various movements, which had to go through various trials and errors.
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