Can MRI drive a medical robot?

Oct 03, 2011

Engineers at Children’s Hospital Boston have demonstrated the ability to program the magnetic field generated by a clinical MRI scanner to motorize and control a robotic instrument – in this case, a surgical biopsy needle. They presented their work at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems 2011 (IROS 2011) sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Robotics Society of Japan in San Francisco on September 29. Their paper, "MRI-powered Actuators for Robotic Interventions," was recognized as one of five finalists for the IROS 2011 Best Paper Award.

“We’ve demonstrated that MRI, in addition to providing terrific images of soft tissue, can also produce sufficient force to drive a robotic device,” says senior investigator Pierre Dupont, PhD, Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Bioengineering at Children’s Hospital Boston. “Our ultimate goal is to create magnetically powered robots that can either travel through the body to perform highly targeted therapies or reside inside the body as adjustable prosthetic devices.

Dupont envisions, for example, tiny ball-bearing-sized robots that could be steered through the cerebrospinal fluid or the urinary system to deliver drugs or stem cells, and implantable devices that could be adjusted to, say, regulate blood flow in the heart, or gradually enlarged to prevent the need for new, larger implants as a child grows.

His robotic biopsy device, built from LEGOS, has a freely rotating arm that swings in the direction of the magnetic field and a series of gears to convert that motion into the motion of a biopsy needle strong enough to puncture tissue (in this case, the tough tissue surrounding an animal heart) and then withdraw.

Apart from a small magnetic sphere inside the arm, located outside the area being imaged, the motor was built from plastics and non-ferrous metals that are compatible for use with MRI, as was the biopsy needle itself.

Although MRI-compatible robots have been built, no one had previously created an MRI-powered motor, Dupont says. The team has also recently demonstrated the ability to have the MRI machine’s independently control two robots at once, and also created an MRI-driven locking mechanism for the motor.

The next engineering challenge Dupont’s lab has begun to tackle is to create swarms of “swimming robots” that could be steered magnetically to different destinations. Each tiny , several millimeters in diameter, is designed with unique characteristics to produce variations in its swimming dynamics that influence its direction and speed.  “It’s a lot of fun math,” says Dupont.

Explore further: An eel-lectrifying future for autonomous underwater robots

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

When robots learn from our mistakes

May 26, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Robots typically acquire new capacities by imitation. Now, EPFL scientists are doing the inverse -- developing machines that can learn more rapidly and outperform humans by starting from failed ...

MRI/PET scanner combo

Mar 07, 2008

Two kinds of body imaging -- positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -- have been combined for the first time in a single scanner.

Whole-body MRI may help detect suspected child abuse

Aug 20, 2010

Whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is highly accurate at detecting soft-tissue abnormalities, may serve a role in detecting suspected child abuse in infants, according to a study in the September issue of ...

FDA clears Siemens' 2-in-1 medical scanner

Jun 10, 2011

(AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration says it has cleared the first medical imaging device to simultaneously perform two powerful scans used to diagnose a wide variety of diseases and ailments.

Smarter robot arms (w/ video)

Sep 22, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A combination of two algorithms developed at MIT allows autonomous robots to execute tasks much more efficiently — and move more predictably.

Recommended for you

How polymer banknotes were invented

23 hours ago

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and CSIRO's 20-year "bank project" resulted in the introduction of the polymer banknote – the first ever of its kind, and the most secure form of currency in the world. ...

Enabling the hearing impaired to locate human speakers

23 hours ago

New wireless microphones systems developed at EPFL should allow the hearing impaired to aurally identify, even with closed eyes, the location of the person speaking. This new technology will be used in classrooms ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rsklyar
not rated yet Oct 04, 2011
Some similar and plagiaristic research at Northwestern University: issuu.com/r_sklyar/docs/sklyarvsmussaivaldi

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.