It may sound like an advanced torture device, but scientists have developed a robotic implant that can stretch organs. Although it sounds dangerous, the device is meant to stimulate tissue growth, BGR reports.
The implant was invented by a research team at the Boston Children's Hospital and has so far only been tested in pigs. The full text of the research findings has been published in the journal Science Robotics. According to the paper's abstract, the robotic implant is designed to stretch tubular organs like the esophagus and the intestines using traction forces controlled by a computer. When they tested the device on a pig's esophagus, it caused cell generation and the extension of the organ without a decrease of its diameter. However, the groundbreaking difference is that the pig was able to be awake, active, and even eat while this was happening.
You may be wondering how an implant like this can help humans. Well, the team behind its creation thinks that the robot can help treat conditions like long-gap esophageal atresia and short bowel syndrome.
Esophageal atresia is a congenital defect that has various forms. In the most common form, the upper esophagus doesn't connect with the lower esophagus and the stomach, Medline Plus reports. Similarly, short bowel syndrome is caused by the absence of part of the small intestine. As a result, the body has difficulty absorbing nutrients.
As BGR notes, current clinical methods for extending the esophagus require the sedation of the patient for weeks. But with this new technology, there's a possibility that it could be done while they are conscious, which is a huge advantage over the procedure that's in use now.
The researchers have said that the pigs did not show any signs that the implantation of the robot was painful, but this finding might be different for humans since we have the ability to vocalize our pain.
One of the investigators involved in the research has said that more tests have to be done with the implant, but they do see it being applied to other human organs in the future.