Health & Fitness | November 6, 2016 5:00 am

Researchers Have Built a Chain-Smoking Robot

The chain-smoking robot created by Harvard researchers. (Wyss Institute)
The chain-smoking robot created by Harvard researchers. (Wyss Institute)
An electrical engineer lights his robot's cigarette in 1939. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)
An electrical engineer lights his robot’s cigarette in 1939. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

 

You know that crazy idea you and your college roommates had to create a robot who could chain-smoke cigarettes? You can stop thinking about it. It exists.

According to Wired, scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have constructed a chain-smoking instrument (read: robot) to help them better understand chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that involves intense coughing, shortness of breath and lung infections. COPD is—rather shockingly—the third leading cause of death in humans around the world, and the major risk factor is exposure to cigarette smoke.

Forcing this robot to smoke (again and again) will allow researchers to investigate COPD. It will also mean researchers can stop their previous, less humane method of studying COPD: forcing rats to inhale smoke inside a box.

The chain-smoking robot created by Harvard researchers. (Wyss Institute)
Researchers at Harvard engineered this chain-smoking robot in order to better understand chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

 

How it works: Researchers load up to a dozen cigarettes into the robot’s Gatling gun-style setup, and an automated lighter fires up each cigarette. Then they program the robot to smoke at different intervals and intensities, and the robot passes the smoke into what’s essentially a lung on a chip, which simulates a human airway.

By loading one chip with lung cells from a COPD sufferer and another chip with cells from a healthy person, scientists can see how the two react differently to smoke—and ultimately how best to treat COPD.

Now if they could just invent a robot to help people quit smoking.

To learn more about the chain-smoking device, watch this video from the Wyss Institute below.