Magnetic Robo-thread from MIT could treat lesions in the brain & remove clots

Researchers from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have developed a thread-like robot thin enough to navigate through a patient’s blood vessels to treat clots, blockages and lesions in the brain. The magnetically controlled soft robot could deliver clot-reducing therapies in response to stroke or other brain blockages.

According to Yoonho Kim “Existing platforms could apply magnetic field and do the fluoroscopy procedure at the same time to the patient, and the doctor could be in the other room, or even in a different city, controlling the magnetic field with a joystick.”

Xuanhe Zhao and his team, including lead author Yoonho Kim, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, describe their soft robotic design in the journal Science Robotics.

To clear blood clots in the brain, doctors often perform an endovascular procedure, a minimally invasive surgery in which a surgeon inserts a thin wire through a patient’s main artery, usually in the leg or groin.

The medical guidewires used in such procedures are passive, meaning they must be manipulated manually, and are typically made from a core of metallic alloys, coated in polymer, a material that Kim says could potentially generate friction and damage vessel linings if the wire were to get temporarily stuck in a particularly tight space.

In this new paper, the researchers combined their work in hydrogels and in magnetic actuation, to produce a magnetically steerable, hydrogel-coated robotic thread, or guidewire, which they were able to make thin enough to magnetically guide through a life-size silicone replica of the brain’s blood vessels.

The researchers also tested the thread in a life-size silicone replica of the brain’s major blood vessels, including clots and aneurysms, modeled after the CT scans of an actual patient’s brain.

Yoonho Kim says that thanks to a magnetically steerable guide-wire, the surgeons don’t need to physically push a wire through a patient’s blood vessels.

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