A team of researchers from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, has created a wirelessly activated device that simulates the muscular function of the esophagus and small intestine that moves food and fluids for digestion.

According to the researchers, the soft-robotic device is powered by magnets that are controlled by a wearable external actuator and can assist patients who suffer from blockages caused by tumors or those who require stents, such as patients with esophageal cancer who risk food being blocked from entering the stomach, thus causing food to potentially enter the lung instead.

The research team suggests that the new device could potentially restore the natural motion of peristalsis, which is the wave-like muscular function that occurs within tubular human organs.

To accomplish this, the device features a soft sheet of small magnets arranged in parallel rows that are activated in an undulating motion that encourages the torque required to pump assorted solid and liquid payloads.

“Magnetically actuated soft robotic pumps that can restore peristalsis and seamlessly integrate with medical stents have not been reported before,” the team reported.

The team detailed their findings in the article, “Wireless Peristaltic Pump for Transporting Viscous Fluids and Solid Cargos in Confined Spaces,” which appears in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

For more on the device, watch the accompanying video, which appears courtesy of Vanderbilt University.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com