Nanobots are developed to help with medical procedures. Pictured, doctors and medics perform a surgery. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

In a bid to aid medical surgeries, a group of researchers hailing from China have developed unique nanorobots, minute machines that could go inside the human body and perform complex tasks to help with an ongoing procedure.

Robots come with wide-ranging capabilities, and engineers have been trying to expand their application from the battlefield and home-based environments to more medical situations. We have already seen robots assisting with medical surgeries, but these nanorobots have been developed with a precision-focused goal.

Produced from millions of magnetic nanoparticles, these tiny machines are not the first nanobots to be developed, but they carry the very unique capability of swarming, just like that demonstrated by flocks of birds or schools of fish.

As Zhang Li, an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the lead author of the work, described, the micro-swarm of nanobots can change its form according to the environment it encounters. Whether it is inside the human body or in any other environment, the nanobots can extend, shrink, merge or split to trigger these morphological changes in the swarm, Xinhua reported.

The feature, inspired by the real-world behavior of birds and fish, is triggered just by the application of a certain magnetic field. The strength of the field defines if the bots retain the acquired morphological shapes or return back to the original form.

The team involved in the work believes the same technology and controlling method could be used to let the bots move through hard-to-access regions and perform a range of complex medical tasks within the human body. This could enable efficient drug delivery for cancer and other life-threatening diseases and even help with dental or eye surgeries.

Having that said, it is worth noting the researchers involved in the project are still working with the university’s medical school to further explore potential clinical applications of the technology. It remains unclear what stage the technology is in, how many tests have been conducted, and how long will it take to actually make it into the medical field.

Nanorobots hold a critical position in the field of medicine, especially due to the amount of flexibility these tiny machines bring. For instance, the nanobot that broke the Guinness World Record for the smallest medical bot.

Developed by researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the machine measures just around 120nm and can easily interact with biological cells to move them to a different location or align them with one another.

The work on the Chinese nanobots was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.