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Incoming: SNAKEBOTS

Snakebot

A boon, a scare, or just a shot in the dark, but mini snake bots are helping surgeons with surgeries.

Imagine a tiny snake crawling inside your body, creepy right? But what if its mechanical, or to make it sound less creepy, lets say it diagnosis diseases inside the human body and helps doctors to identify what exactly is wrong inside.

The doctors have always felt the urge to be able to go inside the patient's body to exactly identify what ails him or her. Well, atleast their eyes can do that now through a computer screen that is.

Some scientists and doctors are using the crawling metallic tools to perform surgery on hearts, prostate cancer, and other diseased organs. The snakebots carry tiny cameras, scissors and forceps, and even more advanced sensors are in the works.

Dr. Michael Argenziano, the Chief of Adult Cardiac Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center in New York was involved with some of the first US Food and Drug Administration clinical trials on robotic heart surgery more than 10 years ago. Now he says snake robots have become a commonly used tool that gives surgeons a whole new perspective.

Howie Choset has been researching and building robots, particularly snake robots, at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University for years.Choset believes that his snake robot and others like it help reduce medical costs by making complex surgeries faster and easier. Choset says his new design is smaller and more flexible than earlier models: The diameter of the head is less than the size of a dime.

The size of surgical robots allows surgeons to operate with far less damage to the body of the patient, thus helping him/her heal faster. For example, instead of opening the entire chest up during heart surgery, a small incision is made, and the robot crawls inside to the proper spot.

Dr. Ashutosh Tewari of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York has used robotic tools to perform thousands of prostate operations. He said the precision of the tiny robotic tool is vital not just to cutting out cancerous tumors, but to seeing exactly what nerves to leave intact.

Tewari said he's most excited about the potential for surgical robots to do things humans can't do. He said the variety of sensors available for surgical robots keeps expanding, even as they get smaller. He said they may one day be able to test chemicals or blood in the body, or even the electrical connections in nerves.

For now, these bots are powered by tethers that humans control. But experts say the day is coming when some robots will roam the body on their own."It won't be very long before we have robots that are nanobots, meaning they will actually be inside the body without tethers," said Dr. Argenziano.

Attention people: A possible Terminator 3: rise of the machines, Judgement Day might be coming our way sooner than we thought.