Compamed 2015 Nanorobots as a medicine taxi for penetrating into tumours

Redakteur: Kathrin Schäfer

The development competence of medical technology suppliers often is the starting point for groundbreaking innovations supporting efficient and effective medical care. It can be seen to apply to ongoing advances in the degree of device miniaturisation. An especially noteworthy example, which at the moment smacks of science fiction, entails sending nanorobots into the patient’s bloodstream to perform operations autonomously.

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New running time: In a change, Compamed this year is open for the same length of time as Medica, from 16 to 19 November.
New running time: In a change, Compamed this year is open for the same length of time as Medica, from 16 to 19 November.
(Photo: Messe Düsseldorf/C. Tillmann)

Focusing on nanorobotic technology, the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Intelligent Systems (Stuttgart) has developed “microswimmers” that can move through human tissue. The robot is like a type of mussel that moves forward by opening and closing and includes a screw that helps make progress by means of rotation. Its diameter is only 100 nanometres, its length 400 nanometres. A rotating magnetic field that is applied externally sets the miniscrew in motion. The manufacturing process for the micromussels is 3D printing, which is becoming increasingly important in a wide variety of applications of interest at Compamed. All materials of construction, such as polydimethylsiloxane, are biocompatible and bioabsorbable.

Researchers imagine that one day nanorobots will introduce specialised therapeutic agents directly into the tumour. “Theoretically, at the size of our construction, application within the cell would be conceivable,” explains Peer Fischer, head of MPI’s Micro-, Nano- and Molecular Systems working group. In any case, the tiny devices should contribute to making medical operations minimally invasive, improve their effectiveness and make the time necessary for such procedures shorter. A number of years may have to go by before this science fiction becomes a reality, however.


Which solutions are already reality?

In the meantime, many “minisolutions” have actually come into being, for the trend towards ever smaller systems remains constant in the medical technology field. “The life science industry is showing a rising demand for miniaturisation, microstructuring and the integration of optical and electrical functions in inexpensive components,” Peter Kirkegaard, CEO of IMT Masken und Teilungen AG in Switzerland, confirms. IMT addresses this need by deploying manufacturing technologies based on glass that are used in the semiconductor industry. The company manufactures microchannels, clearance holes, electrodes, optical and electrical coatings, waveguides and gratings. The minutest structures have dimensions as small as 150 nanometres. Applications for these components include lab-on-a-chip systems, among other things.

Printed electronics gain importance

IMT is being represented, along with some 50 other exhibitors, at the joint stand of the professional association for microtechnology IVAM, which again provides a focal point for microsystem technology, nanotechnologies, production technology and process control in Hall 8a. “This is a new record; our floor space comprises almost 700 square metres,” enthuses IVAM spokeswoman Mona Okroy-Hellweg. Also again this year, the professional association is organising the Compamed High-Tech Forum in Hall 8a. One symposium, presented by IVAM with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, deals with a topic that is increasingly significant in medical technology: printed electronics. In addition, the topic of this year’s spring forum, “Lasers–Optics–Photonics,” is the area of focus during another symposium. “Since many sensor manufacturers are represented at our stand, we have additionally organised a session on ‘Smart Sensor Solutions’,” says Okroy-Hellweg.

The Compamed Suppliers Forum takes place as before in parallel in Hall 8b. As is traditional, the trade magazine Devicemed organises this event. The focus of numerous presentations by specialists from internationally leading companies entails current developments along the entire process chain. “On all four days of the trade fair, exhibitors will be providing information on technical innovations and on other matters within the scope of the interplay among manufacturers, suppliers and physicians or users,” reports Peter Reinhardt, editor in chief of Devicemed. The “Innovation Guide” initiated by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research is also a topic. The programme is rounded out with practical instructions on protecting innovations and on IT security.