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A wasp shows the way.

Imperial college drivetechImperial college drivetech

What do wasps have to do with brain surgery? At first glance, not a whole lot. However, a team of researchers from England is developing a brain surgery needle inspired by a species of wasp.

In tumor treatment, neurosurgeons today often use a thin, rigid needle to inject the required medication into the affected brain tissue. This carries a relatively high risk of injuring healthy tissue, because a rigid needle only allows access to the specified region of the brain via a straight path. The ideal solution would be a flexible operating tool.

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This is where the London Imperial College comes in. In recent years, a team led by Dr. Rodriguez y Baena has been working on developing a flexible robotic needle capable of reaching the deeper regions of the brain, while simultaneously avoiding critical areas. The young researchers are imitating the special mechanism employed by female wood wasps that use their thin but very strong drill-like ovipositors to lay eggs directly inside the wood of trees. Under the codename STING (Soft Tissue Intervention and Neurosurgical Guide), the scientists have developed a prototype consisting of four segments with an overall diameter of 2.5 millimeters, held together by a puzzle-like interlocking mechanism. maxon drives provide the back-and-forth motion of the segments.

The whole range of products

Dr. Riccardo Secoli, a member of the research team at the Imperial College, selected the brushless maxon EC20 flat motor with a GP22 planetary gearhead for the application. An EPOS 24/2 positioning controller ensures exact positioning. “Easy access to the API (Application Programming Interface) was the major key criterion of selection. On top of that, maxon is the only manufacturer that offers the whole range of products: motor, gearhead, controller,” explained Dr. Secoli.

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In early 2016, the team received a grant of 8.3 million euros from the European Union within the funding scheme Horizon2020. The new project, codenamed EDEN2020 (Enhanced Delivery Ecosystem for Neurosurgery, aims to set a new standard in the field of neurosurgical diagnostics and therapy by 2020.

Author: maxon HQ

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