Photo credit: MIT
Sometimes, it’s near impossible to operate on certain areas of the brain, but that has all changed, thanks to a team of MIT engineers. The researchers have developed a magnetically steerable, thread-like robot that can actively glide through narrow, winding pathways, like the brain’s labrynthine vasculature. When combined with existing endovascular technologies, this would allow doctors to remotely guide the robot through a patient’s brain vessels to quickly treat blockages and lesions that are commonly associated with aneurysms as well as stroke. Read more for a video and additional information.
This robotic thread is made from nickel-titanium alloy (nitinol), which is a material that is not only bendy, but springy as well. This means it can retain its shape when bent, so a nitinol wire would return to its original shape, resulting in more flexibility when winding through tight, tortuous vessels. The wire’s core was then coated in a rubbery paste, or ink, which was embedded throughout with magnetic particles.
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Stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. If acute stroke can be treated within the first 90 minutes or so, patients’ survival rates could increase significantly. If we could design a device to reverse blood vessel blockage within this ‘golden hour,’ we could potentially avoid permanent brain damage. That’s our hope,” said Xuanhe Zhao, associate professor of mechanical engineering and of civil and environmental engineering at MIT.