Robot designed to treat birth defects

Posted Jan 24, 2018 by Tim Sandle
A new robot has been devised, which can be implanted into the human body, to treat the condition esophageal atresia. The condition is a rare form of birth defect.
A newborn in an incubator at a neonatal intensive care unit.
A newborn in an incubator at a neonatal intensive care unit.
Zerbey via wikipedia
The robot comes from a collaborative project between University of Sheffield, U.K. and Boston’s Children Hospital, U.S. The micro-sized robotic device can be implanted into the body to assist with the treatment of esophageal atresia, a defect that affects a baby's esophagus. The device encourages tissue growth in babies with the condition.
Esophageal atresia is a congenital medical condition which affects the alimentary tract. The defect causes the esophagus to end in a blind-ended pouch instead of connecting normally to the stomach. The condition affects around 1 in 40,000 babies in the U.S.
The robot is attached to the esophagus via two rings. The robot is formed of an incorporated motor which functions to stimulate the cells in the esophagus through a gentle pull of the tissue. Following this, through the activation of two types of sensors the robot monitors and then applies tissue traction, in relation to tissue properties.
One of the sensors assesses the tension in the tissue and the second measures tissue displacement. The sensors and the subsequent robotic action are based on the Foker technique, which is necessary to correct the esophageal atresia. This method consists of manually pulling the tissue slowly using sutures over a period of time. A robot can perform this more accurately than any human.
The research was led by Dr. Dana Damian from the University of Sheffield. Discussing the breakthrough in medical robotics with Bioscience Technology, the researcher said: “The robot we developed addresses this issue because it measures the force being applied and can be adapted at anytime throughout the treatment.”
She adds: “With it being implanted in the patient, it means they have — in effect — a doctor by their side all the time, monitoring them and changing their treatment when needed.”
One important part of the new robot is that it allows babies to move around freely and to interact with their parents whilst undergoing the treatment. Medics can monitor progress via a control unit.
Given the success of the prototype robotic implant commercialization of the device is set to proceed. The research has been reported to the journal Science Robotics, in the paper titled “In vivo tissue regeneration with robotic implants.