Robotic device winds its own way through beating pig heart

ABC News | 4/24/2019 | Staff
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Borrowing from the way cockroaches skitter along walls, scientists have created a robotic device that safely guides itself through the delicate chambers of a pig's heart as it's beating.

It is one of the first times researchers have shown that a truly autonomous surgical robot can navigate inside the heart, not controlled by a doctor with a joystick, according to a study in Wednesday's journal Science Robotics .

Heart - Surgeons - Tube - Catheter - Twisting

Heart surgeons routinely push a thin tube called a catheter through twisting and turning blood vessels to make repairs in the heart without open surgery. But how does a robotic version find its own way through moving heart tissue and with blood swishing in the way?

Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital turned the catheter's camera tip into essentially an "optical whisker," said cardiac bioengineering chief Pierre Dupont, the lead researcher. Just as cockroaches navigate along walls and rats reach out with their whiskers, the catheter maps its path through the heart, tapping periodically against the heart's valve and wall ever so lightly — with about the force of a stick of butter sitting in your hand, Dupont said. The technology combines the camera's images with machine learning to interpret what tissue it's touching and how hard.

Robot - Wall - Heart - Valve - Dr

"This robot is trying to walk along the wall of the heart until it gets to the valve," Dr. Uma Duvvuri of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who heads a robotic innovation lab but wasn't part of Wednesday's study. "That's a pretty exciting development but this is still very, very preliminary."

The demonstration technology is still years away from any operating room, and isn't designed to replace a surgeon, Dupont said. Instead, he said it might free up a surgeon's time to focus on...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ABC News
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