You know those little motes or floaters you that you sometimes see moving in your vision? Well, someday very soon, those could be robots.

An international team of medical researchers has unveiled a new class of medical nanobots that can “swim” through the thick vitreous tissue of the eyeball. The propeller-shaped robots are designed to deliver medicine to precise locations in the eye.

The nanobots have so far only been tested in model systems and dissected animal eyeballs, but the plan is to eventually deploy the technology in clinics, giving doctors a new way to treat a variety of ophthalmological ailments.

The new robots were developed at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, with input from researchers in Denmark and China. Details on the emerging technology were recently published in the journal Science Advances under the rather evocative title, “A swarm of slippery micropropellers penetrates the vitreous body of the eye.”

While similar nanobots have been developed for moving though other parts of the body — the bloodstream and the gastrointestinal tract, say — the Planck bots are the first to be designed specifically for the human eyeball. The project is part of a larger initiative to design extremely small robots that can achieve targeted drug delivery inside of dense biological tissue.

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