A puncture device could help doctors examine capillaries and the brain

Researchers from EDFL, École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, have developed a new endovascular technology that could explore parts of the body that were never available before.

In particular, Lucio Pancaldi et al. Selman Sakar, a student and assistant professor, has developed a new device that uses hydrokinetic energy to bring medical instruments to incredibly small places in the human body.

Large parts of the brain and parts of veins and arteries are completely inaccessible to doctors because of their size. The new technology uses blood flow through the capillaries to pull the device through the body.

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At present, doctors access patients’ arteries by pushing wires through them using catheters. However, these catheters can be so small and bend so much, restricting access to more distant parts of the human body.

A study called “Robotic Navigation of Flow-Driven Microengineered Endovascular Probes” was published in the journal Nature Communications.

What the device can do

As for the device itself, it has a magnetic tip and an extremely flexible body. This flexibility, created by polymer chains, allows easy pulling of the magnetic tip through veins and arteries. In their work, the researchers noted:

“Our technology has the potential to improve state-of-the-art practices by improving availability, reducing the risk of iatrogenic damage, significantly increasing the speed of robot-assisted interventions, and allowing multiple guides through standard needle injection and saline.”

The biggest advantage of this technology is simply that it allows doctors to access new parts of the human body. Using surgical robots and medical imaging technology, medical professionals could theoretically map patients’ vascular systems or perhaps perform very precise medical operations deep into patients.

So far, the device has been tested in an artificial microvasculature system at the EPFL School of Engineering. With a successful proof of concept, the next step is animal testing along with medical imaging to further examine the potential of the device.

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