You can tell there is a bit of needle. And cheek. But sometimes that’s what it takes to create a non-invasive robotic cure for epilepsy.
The Vanderbilt University researchers, in the USA, have devised a curved shape memory alloy needle to navigate a path through the human cheek and into the brain. Once there, the device can destroy the small area where seizures originate.
The story of a patient, an MRI machine and a humble robotic needle. David Comber/Vanderbilt University
I know your cheeks are twitching at the thought of it, but it could be a lot worse. At present, severe epilepsy is treated by drilling through the skull, which sounds a lot more painful.
The device consists of a 1.14mm nickel-titanium needle that works like a mechanical pencil, with concentric tubes that allow the tip to follow a curved path through the cheek and into the hippocampus, in the bottom of the brain.
The surgeon operates this magical robotic pencil using an MRI scanner – tracking its position by taking successive MRI scans at millimetre intervals.
Nickel and titanium were chosen for the needle because they are compatible with this scanning equipment. The device can also be 3D printed, so you can perform the surgery in the comfort of your own h— actually, scratch that last part. Best leave the needling to the professionals.
And, it seems robots are also weaseling their way into the heart, having conquered the mind. The robotic heart surgery trial in St Bartholomew’s Hospital, in London (below), bears testament to the increased mechanisation of medicine.
For a little more on MRI imaging, check out Simon’s recent blog: http://bit.ly/1xtsVfp
If you are tired of hearing about robots, read how squid’s teeth and mussel feet are getting in on the medical act at http://bit.ly/1rYCNbF and http://bit.ly/1x1na7C respectively.
By Eoin Redahan