Robotic Laser: Getting Through Cancer Treatment with the Tiniest Instruments
By: Diana Marie Villa
A novel soft robotic laser could allow surgeons to perform head and neck surgery without causing damage to other essential structures.
Head and neck cancer, the world’s sixth most frequent disease, kills about 450,000 people each year and is usually treated with laser ablative therapy. This is accomplished by destroying tiny tumors using targeted lasers. Unfortunately, surgeons risk injuring vital healthy tissues in the head and neck if they are unable to adequately visualize and navigate the oral and pharyngeal cavities.
In relation to that statistics, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and The University of Hong Kong (HKU) developed an MRI-compatible soft robot designed to combine surgery with MRI imagery.
Researchers have created a soft robotic laser microsurgery device that can-do head and neck surgery while an MRI is being performed. The technology was successful when tested on a human cadaver, according to a study published in Science Robotics.
The gadget is powered by soft robotics actuators, built of MRI-compatible materials, and guided by a learning-based controller for efficient navigation, and it is set to revolutionize the game for head and neck cancer treatment.
This surgical equipment is typically incompatible with the limited and extremely magnetic space within an MRI scanner. The study team made sure their soft robotic endoscope was millimeter-scale and had no electromagnetic interference with MRI to smoothly negotiate the tight corners of the head and neck while providing accurate imaging.
Surgeons could see 3D resections of target tissues as well as a thermal map, allowing them to navigate the space and precisely target small portions of injured tissue.
According to Dr Ka Wai Kwok from HKU “This robotic laser could shrink its size, the robot will be able to reach more limited areas like the nasal canal and sinus cavity. We’ll also implement some special image sequences so that the photos can be transmitted back to the robot more quickly”.