Magnets outside the patient will be used to guide the robot tentacle into the correct position.
The device has been developed by a team of engineers, scientists and clinicians based at the STORM Laboratory at the University of Leeds, which are pioneering the use of robotic systems to assist Assists with endoscopic and catheter procedures, where a small tube is inserted into a person’s body.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature Soft robot.
This proof of concept is based on laboratory tests involving 3-D replicas of bronchial trees modeled from anatomical data. The next phase of research will investigate the effectiveness of the device in navigating lungs taken from a cadaver.
Currently, doctors use an instrument called a bronchoscope to examine the lungs and airways. This procedure involves inserting a flexible tube-like instrument, approximately 3.5 to 4 mm in diameter, through the nose or mouth and into the bronchial passages.
Due to its size, the bronchoscope can only go as far as the upper level of the bronchial tree. To go deeper into the lungs, a catheter or small tube – about 2mm in diameter – is passed through the bronchoscope and then into the smaller tubes of the lung.
However, doctors are limited on how to move the bronchoscope, making it difficult to navigate the instrument and catheter to where it’s needed.
However, the magnetic tentacle robot has been developed to be much more maneuverable and uses a personalized robot guidance system for each process.
Professor Pietro Valdastri, Director of the STORM Laboratory who oversaw the study, said: “A tentacle robot or magnetic catheter measuring 2mm and shaped that can be magnetically manipulated to match the bronchial tree anatomy could reach most areas of the lung and would be a tool Clinically important in the investigation and treatment of possible lung cancer and other lung diseases. “
“Our system uses an automatic magnetic guidance system which eliminates the need for the patient to take X-rays during the procedure. ”
To develop the robotic system, the team had to overcome two major challenges.
First, they had to create a device that was small, flexible, and able to navigate the twisting and turning movements of the anatomical structure of the bronchial tree.
Second, they needed an automated system to guide the robot’s magnetic tentacles into position, eliminating the need for a physician to manually maneuver an instrument into place, which often involves the patient. must be exposed to X-rays and can be technically challenging for Healthcare Workers.
To reduce the size of the robot while preserving motion control, the researchers built it from a series of interconnected cylindrical segments, about every 2 mm in diameter and about 80 mm in length. The segments are made of a soft elastomer or rubber-like material that has been impregnated with microscopic magnetic particles.
Due to the presence of magnetic particles, the interconnected segments can move slightly independently under the influence of an external magnetic field. The result is a highly flexible magnetic tentacle robot that can change shape and is small enough to avoid clinging to anatomical structures in the lungs.
Magnets mounted on the robotic arm on the outside of the patient will be used to guide the device into the lungs in a process designed specifically for each procedure.
The path through the bronchial tree is planned from the preoperative lung scans of the patient and programmed into the robotic system. As the magnets outside the patient move, they exert force on the magnetic elements in the segments of the catheter, causing them to change shape or direction – allowing the robot to be maneuvered through the lungs and to a position where there is a Suspicious injury.
Once it reaches the target location, the robot will be used to take a tissue sample or treat it.
It may take several years before “magnetic tentacles” technology becomes available in hospitals.
The STORM Laboratory at the University of Leeds is revolutionizing the technology used in endoscopic and catheter investigations.
They have created a prototype of a low-cost endoscope – used to investigate the upper gastrointestinal tract – that could be used in low- to middle-income countries where access is lacking. Access to expensive equipment is hindering screening programs.
Magnetic technology is also at the heart of a robotic colonoscopy system that makes it easier for staff to operate and kinder to patients.
The STORM Laboratory is part of the Leeds Cancer Research Centre, which was established earlier this year.