Archives for category: Surgery

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The future of healthcare includes robotics devices which mimic living tissue and may help to target and perform functions with superior accuracy and efficiency of drugs. A 2014 study by Cvetkovic et al. presented the first engineered skeletal muscle machine which moved unattached to any other device. These small soft robotic devices were able to contract and crawl on their own, mimicking the function of skeletal muscle tissue. The shell of the machine is made from hydrogel to encase the tissue. Meanwhile, engineered muscle building cell tissue, along with proteins such as collagen or fibrin were printed on 3D printer and encased in this shell to make the tissue functional.

The many systems that need to be coordinated for muscle contraction are difficult enough to just understand, but to be able to engineer something that mimics the function is amazing. For muscle tissue to contract and produce force requires an intense network of neural input and coordination of responsive tissue. There must be enough elasticity in the muscle to produce the force; ultimately the change in length and contraction of muscle tissue produces the force for movement. The tissue must be slightly stretched at all times for potential contraction; but not so far that it loses the ability to contract. This all occurs with electrical cues which send signals to the muscle tissue for contraction.

The future of these small biological machines has many implications, as the article explains. Future uses include drug screening, drug delivery, medical implants, and biomimetic machines.

See the video below for demonstration:

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Surgery has come a long way with many facilities now using robotics to either assist or replace human tasks. Delicate procedures that require a lot of precision, repetition, and endurance can benefit from the use of such technology. A few years ago, CardioARM was developed for minimally invasive heart surgery. This device resembles a snake, which can travel to the target areas through insertion beneath the sternum and perform ablations of heart tissue that is disturbing heart rhythm. Ablation, meaning the target area of heart is burned away. This procedure replaces the more invasive task of opening the chest cavity and cutting away into your vitals. For anyone who has ever visualized the inside of a body, it is amazing that a device is not only able to navigate but reach a specific area of the heart and perform an ablation on target tissue.

CardioARM features 50 links which are connected by cables and can move in a combination of 105 different movements. The device can move forward and reverse, and is headed with a camera and light guide to allow for visualization. Once the CardioARM enters under the xyphoid process (bottom of the sternum), it is directed toward the specific region of troublesome heart tissue. Once it reaches its target, it delivers a “dot to dot” procedure for the ablation. Each lesion is delivered 30 watts of power for 30 seconds.

In 2011, this device was first successfully tested in human clinical trials. As it takes a long time for such devices to actually enter hospitals, this will hopefully become an option soon for surgeons dealing with life threatening arrhythmias.