Need colon tissue samples? A swarm of dust-size grippers may soon snip hundreds of bits from inside your body. They'll replace the forceps, which can miss cancer cells because it samples only a handful of sites for a biopsy.
A Johns Hopkins University team supervised by David H. Gracias is testing micro-tissue-rippers who can be inserted in the colon, where a heat-activated coating of polymer dissolves, allowing them to deploy and grab on to tissue. They can get a sample large enough to be useful in DNA testing. They are then retrieved by a magnetic catheter. They look like a tiny crab, in fact joint design was inspired by that of arthropods. Although not yet tested on humans, the grippers impress not only because of what they do, but by what they lack: batteries or guide wires are not required.
The polymer coating itself is being developed to act smart and release the claws only in the presence of triggers found in diseased sites, as described in Advanced Materials. The biodegradable coatings that if a few grippers in a swarm are missed by the magnetic catheter and remain inside, the body has no problem dealing with tiny foreign objects.
Replicators come to mind, but they were not friendly surgery bots.
What books or shows anticipated micro-tech replacing old clunky surgery tools?