A magnetic tentacle or robotic catheter two millimeters in diameter, whose shape can be magnetically adjusted to match the anatomy of the bronchial tree, could reach most parts of the lung and would be an important clinical tool for investigating and treating potential lung cancer and other lung diseases. Thakor, a professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told The Post, “I envision a future where a complete lung exam is performed and a surgeon sits at a computer, determines the navigational path of this robotic snake and says, ‘Go get it. He also sees potential for applications beyond the lungs, such as the heart. Of course, people don’t like being asked to swallow magnetic goo – or even magnetic poop – or to shove a snake-like robot down their throats, but it might be better than sticking an endoscope in or getting cuts. In this particular case, the Tenakel magnetic robot offers a more compact, flexible and self-contained option than using traditional bronchoscopes, which range in diameter from 3.5 to 4 millimeters and can be guided by physicians. Our goal is to enable earlier diagnosis, greater screening and more effective treatment of life-threatening diseases such as cancer. To do this, we are developing smart and affordable robotic solutions that can improve the quality of life for people undergoing flexible endoscopy and laparoscopic surgery in environments with limited access to healthcare infrastructure. To prevent toxic electrolytes from escaping, we can use this type of robotic mucosa to encapsulate them and form a kind of inert coating, Professor Zhang said. In addition, our system uses an autonomous magnetic guidance system, so patients don’t need an X-ray during the procedure. The specific path of the patient is programmed in the robotic system based on preoperative scans. Researchers believe it is capable of grasping solid objects, swallowing and carrying harmful things, controlling human movements, and altering and repairing electrical circuits. It even has self-repair properties. In the video, mucus surrounds a small pile; researchers can see how the mucus helps the person swallow the pile. Mucus has what’s called viscoelastic properties, which means that sometimes it behaves like a solid and sometimes like a liquid. If you touch it very quickly, it behaves like a solid, explains Professor Li Zhang, a co-author of the invention. Others compare the magnetic slime to Flubber or Venom, but we can only hope for better uses. The robot has been tested on a 3D copy of the bronchial tree and will then be tested on the lungs of a cadaver. The team has also developed an inexpensive prototype endoscope and a robotic colonoscopy system.