UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Blood clots, or blood clots that form in blood vessels, are dangerous, wherever they arise. However, blood clots in the brain pose the greatest threat. The consequences of thrombosis can be aneurysm and stroke.
Today, endovascular (intravascular) surgical intervention helps doctors cleanse blood vessels of the brain from blood clots. The specialist inserts a thin wire into the patient’s large artery, usually through the leg or groin. Guided by the testimony of a fluoroscope, which displays the pattern of blood vessels using x-rays, the surgeon manually guides the wire into the damaged brain vessel. This technique allows not only to establish the exact location of the thrombus, but also to insert a catheter into the desired area to deliver the drug that dilutes the clot, or a device to remove the latter.
However, the metal or polymer tools that are used for this procedure can cause friction or even get stuck in difficult places. Doctors themselves also face certain risks, which are exposed to radiation during the operation.
These problems are solved by a new development , presented by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The team created a filamentous robot that can easily glide through the winding labyrinths of the vessels of the brain. The new development in combination with modern endovascular technologies will allow you to quickly treat hard-to-reach areas of the brain. At the same time, the procedure will become safer for both patients and surgeons.
“If acute stroke will be possible to respond within the first 90 minutes, the survival rate of patients could increase significantly – says co-author Syuanhe Zhao ( Xuanhe is Zhao ) -. If we could develop a device to reverse the occlusion of blood vessels during this time, we could avoid long-term brain damage. ”
According to the authors of the work, the basis of their “robot worm” is a thread made of nickel-titanium alloy, or nitinol . A thin wire made of such a material is perfectly bent and at the same time remains elastic, so it can be drawn through the narrowest and most sinuous vessels.
Scientists have coated this core with a composition with magnetic particles. A layer of hydrogel was applied on top, which does not affect the sensitivity of magnetic particles, but makes the surface of the device biocompatible and smooth, reducing friction.
The device has a diameter of less than 0.6 millimeters and is remotely controlled by magnets.
The team has already completed several trials of the “robotic worm”. In one of the experiments, he overcame the “obstacle course” of miniature rings. The authors compared this test with threading into the eye of a needle.
For another test, a full-size silicone copy of the human brain was used. It was created on the basis of computed tomography of the patient’s brain. The main blood vessels were filled with a fluid resembling blood in viscosity, and supplemented the picture with clots and aneurysms.
Next, the researchers manually manipulated a large magnet to direct the robot along the desired trajectories inside the vessels.
Experts say that they were satisfied with the results of these tests. The maneuverability of the robotic worm was higher than that of traditional tools. At the same time, a smooth coating reduced the risk associated with friction, and the ability to remotely control protected the surgeons.
“Existing platforms can be exposed to a magnetic field and simultaneously carry out a fluoroscopy procedure, and the doctor can be in another room or even in another city, controlling the magnetic field with a joystick,” explains lead author of the study, Yoonho Kim .
At the next stage, the researchers intend to test the device on animal models, as well as expand its functionality. In particular, they want to use the “robotic worm” for targeted delivery of drugs that thin the blood.
In addition, scientists plan to experiment with another technique – resorption of blood clots under the influence of a laser beam. To demonstrate the viability of the idea, in one of the experiments, the nitinol that makes up the core of the device was replaced with an optical fiber. Specialists managed to direct the robot to the target area with a magnet, and then activate the laser, which will do the rest of the work.
Read more about this development in an article published in the journal Science Robotics.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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