Apr 15, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

Tiny Robots Injected and Sent to Brain -- Fantastic Voyage or Fearsome Conspiracy?

In 1966, 20th Century Fox released “Fantastic Voyage,” a science fiction adventure film about a submarine crew that was shrunk to microscopic size and injected into the body of a scientist to repair damage to his brain. The film was a box office hit, received five Academy Award nominations (winning two) and inspired Americans into thinking that this would be a reality someday … and quite possibly not far into the future. It is now the 21st century. Instead of dreams of microscopic surgical teams, the pandemic has brought on paranoia and conspiracy theories involving injectable secret tracking devices hidden in possible lifesaving vaccines. Well, except at a California where have miniaturized the next best thing to humans – robots – and are planning to use them to attack otherwise inoperable brain tumors. Will this turn the tide away from fear and back to the dreams of “Fantastic Voyage”?

"Today, most brain surgery and brain intervention is limited to straight lines -- if you don't have a straight line to the target, you're stuck, you're not going to get there."

In an interview with AFP, Bionaut Labs CEO and founder Michael Shpigelmacher explains how ‘bionauts’ – 21st century miniature submarines – are already being tested on sheep and pigs to handle the curves of mammalian blood vessels in order to enter the brain, travel to the tumor and torpedo it with anti-cancer drugs that could not otherwise reach the target with conventional straight-line surgery or injections. The end result is the destruction or reduction of the tumor without the side effects and risks caused by a bombardment of drugs or the long-term recovery from invasive surgery.

"We want to take that old idea and turn it into reality."

By “old idea,” Shpigelmacher means the very idea of the miniaturized submarine crew in “Fantastic Voyage,” which he admits was his inspiration. Bionaut Labs has teamed with the Max Planck research institutes to develop a magnetic energy propulsion system for the miniature robotic subs because they’re not harmful to the body – the magnetic coils are placed outside the skull and controlled by surgeons sitting at a computer screen. According to the specifications, the entire system is easily transportable and highly efficient – using up to 100 times less electricity than an MRI.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Bionaut Labs approvals for using the robot subs in clinical trials to treat Dandy-Walker Syndrome, which is a fluid buildup in the brain caused by a cysts, and on inoperable malignant gliomas (brain tumors). The trials are set to begin within two years.

Cora Peterson:

We're going to see things no one has ever seen before. Just think about it.


That's the trouble. I am.

Fans of the movie “Fantastic Voyage” (this writer is one) will remember that technical assistant Cora Peterson was played by Raquel Welch, and the plot involved one of the miniaturized crew members (not Cora Peterson) attempting to sabotage the surgery because the patient was a doctor who had worked on the technology behind the Iron Curtain and the project was part of the Cold War competition between the US and the USSR. While there are no mini humans in the Bionaut, the current tensions between the US and Russia could easily inspire a plot twist of the robotic Bionaut being hacked for nefarious purposes.

Would Raquel Welch (still beautiful at 81) consider being in the operating room for luck?

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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