25 October 2022

Soft endoscope for the brain

The brain is a fragile, complex network of tightly packed nerve cells, each of which plays its own role. When there is a need for therapy of brain diseases, surgeons should be able to navigate in this delicate environment in order to accurately affect the target areas without harming healthy cells.

In neurosurgical procedures, minimally invasive surgery, that is, the introduction of a direct instrument (for example, a catheter), is a common practice in various fields of application, ranging from biopsy and laser ablation, ending with drug delivery and fluid evacuation.

The limitation of a rigid catheter is its low accuracy in conditions of shifting brain tissues, as well as the deformation and tissue damage that it can cause. The problem of access to deeply located anatomical structures remains open, limiting both preoperative planning and the possibilities of surgical intervention.

Researchers from Imperial College London have created a neurosurgical platform capable of inserting a soft guided catheter for a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic manipulations with the possibility of targeted drug delivery.


On the left: the surgeon's console with a visual interface. On the right: a controlled catheter drive mounted on a neurosurgical robot.

The system includes a flexible catheter that avoids damage to brain tissue during treatment, and a robotic arm with artificial intelligence support that helps surgeons guide it through brain tissue.


The catheter consists of four interconnected segments that slide relative to each other, providing flexible navigation.

Artificial intelligence collects information about the surgeon's actions and the response of brain tissues in order to guide the catheter with maximum accuracy.

To test the system, the researchers inserted a flexible catheter into the brains of two live sheep in the Laboratory of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Milan. The sheep were given painkillers and watched for signs of distress around the clock for a week, and then the structural effect of the catheter on brain tissue was studied.

They found no signs of pain, tissue damage, or infection after the catheter implantation. If the same results are achieved in humans, then in four years it can be introduced into practical medicine.

If successful, the new method of minimally invasive robotic brain surgery will increase the safety and effectiveness of modern neurosurgical procedures where precise targeting of therapeutic and diagnostic systems is required, for example, in localized gene therapy. It will help reduce tissue damage during surgery, as well as speed up the patient's recovery and shorten the length of hospital stay.

Article by R.Secoli et al. Modular robotic platform for precision neurosurgery with a bio-inspired needle: System overview and first in vivo deployment is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Aminat Adzhieva, portal "Eternal Youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on the materials of Imperial College London: New flexible, steerable device placed in live brains by minimally invasive robot.

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