Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Really Tiny Hands

PostedDecember 27, 2009

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Randy Atkins: A device modeled after the human hand, but about the size of a speck of dust, has been engineered to work without electric power or tethers.  In the lab, David Gracias, a Johns Hopkins University engineer, has shown that the six-fingered “microgripper” can be magnetically guided to tissues.

David Gracias: If it sees the right chemical environment, it can react to that environment and perform a certain function.

Randy Atkins: Since diseased tissues emit unique chemical cues…thousands of “microgrippers” might be prompted at once to, say, remove a cancer.

David Gracias: We’ve engineered the grippers with very sharp claws on the end, so the tips are very sharp so that they could tear into tissue.

Randy Atkins: The “microgripper” is still years away from use in humans.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, 103 point 5 F-M and WTOP-dot-com.


Researchers believe such devices will one day perform more complex procedures, like stitch sutures.