The first endovascular technology for capillary research

Minimally invasive medical procedures, such as endovascular catheterization, significantly shortened the procedure time and associated complications. However, many areas within the body, such as cerebral vasculature, remain inaccessible due to a lack of appropriate guidance technologies.

At the EPFL, Lucio Pancaldi, Ph.D. the student and Selman Sakar, an assistant professor, decided to use hydrokinetic energy (mechanical energy resulting from the movement of fluid) to reach a place in the human body without resorting to invasive methods.

Scientists from EPFL’s laboratory MicroBioRobotic Systems (MICROBS), working with colleagues from the group of prof. Diego Ghezzi, have designed tethered microscopic devices that can be introduced into capillaries with unprecedented speed and ease.

The devices can move by electronic devices that are smaller than human hair inside the blood vessels and reach the arterioles.

Scientists have developed the device using a magnetic tip and an ultra flexible body made of biocompatible polymers.

Pancaldi said, “Imagine a hook gradually being released into a river. It will be carried by electricity. We hold on to one end of the device and let the blood drag it to most of the peripheral tissues. We gently rotate the magnetic tip of the device in bifurcations to select a specific path. “

“Since no mechanical force is applied to the wall of the vessel, the risk of damage is very low. Moreover, utilization of blood flow could reduce the time of surgery from a few hours to a few minutes. “

Both the device release and the magnetic control are under computer control. Moreover, there is no need for back force because the top of the device does not push the walls of the vessel.

Sakar said, “We can predict that the surgical robot will use a detailed blood flow map provided by magnetic resonance imaging and CT scans of the patient to independently direct the device to target locations. Adding machine intelligence would transform endovascular surgery. Alternatively, the computer program may use the visual information provided by the fluoroscope to locate the device and calculate the path in real time to facilitate manual operations. “

Journal reference:
  1. Pancaldi, L., Dirix, P., Fanelli, A. et all. Flow robotic navigation of micro-engineered endovascular probes. Nat Commun 11, 6356 (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-20195-z