Sometimes, the best solution is the one that you steal from your little cousins.
Researchers at the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University have enlisted the help of some custom made LEGO robots to grow artificial bone samples. In order to build up the bone grafts, a scaffold needs to be repeatedly dipped in a number of different solutions to grow the compound, a highly repetitive task that lent itself to a little bit of home-brewed automation.
The team built cranes from a Lego Mindstorms robotics kit, which contains micro-controllers, actuators, and sensors that can be programmed to perform sequential tasks. The synthetic bone scaffold was tied to a string at the end of the crane, and the whole setup was able to perform the sequential layering needed to grow the composite bone.
The project is outlined in the video below, which was produced by the folks at Google to help promote their online Science Fair. The video demonstrates the robots in action and explains the process of growing the synthetic bone.
The research team is working on hydroxyapatite-gelatin composites to create synthetic bone as a replacement for bone graft, which can be risky, and greatly increase the recovery time for the patient.
- Press release: Growing bones with Lego...
This post also appears on medGadget, an Atlantic partner site.