Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University, led by David Gracias, have been working for quite sometime on wireless microgrippers to improve biopsies. Now two new publications in Gastroenterology and Advanced Materials describe their experiences with the ‘mu-grippers’ to collect cells from the intestinal tract of a pig. The microgrippers can be released from an endoscope via the mouth and stomach, gaining access to hard-to-reach places like the bile duct, where they obtain tissue samples.
The microgrippers are shaped like a star, or a flower if you like that better. Prior to the procedure, the microgrippers are kept on ice because they are activated by a person’s body heat, which causes the arms of the microgripper to close. This happens in about five minutes: the body heat causes the polymer coating to soften, curling the arms inward and closing the gripper. The microgrippers are released in hundreds from an endoscopy tool, enabling them to collect many samples from many more locations than conventional endoscopy with biopsy. To get the tiny tools out of the body again, a magnetic catheter is used.
By using hundreds or thousands of these microgrippers you can obtain a large amount of biopsies, improving your diagnostics. The amount of tissue grabbed by the microgripper is obviously smaller, but the researchers say that these samples consist of enough cells for analysis.
Now that the first steps showing promising results have been taken using live animals, the next step is to further refine this new way of performing biopsies. To start off, Gracias and his team will try to improve the deployment of the grippers. Although nobody will be looking forward to having these little grippers released into their own intestines, hopefully this technique will improve biopsies in the future, making them more effective and less invasive.
Video of deployment of the microgrippers:
News release at Johns Hopkins: Johns Hopkins Team Deploys Hundreds of Tiny Untethered Surgical Tools in First Animal Biopsies
Article in Advanced Materials: Biopsy with Thermally-Responsive Untethered Microtools
Article in Gastroenterology: Biologic Tissue Sampling With Untethered Microgrippers
Earlier post on Medgadget: Microgrippers That Perform Cell Biopsies