Construction of the Kahn Medical Robotics Lab is Completed

  The successful, albeit limited, use of robots to date has heightened demand for their effective incorporation into a wide array of medical procedures. The need to both improve common surgical procedures to a point where surgical revision is needed much less frequently, and to develop entirely new procedures, make further research and development in this field essential.

In a preliminary survey, researchers from the Technion’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering contacted every hospital in Israel and requested that medical personnel identify the areas in which they believe robotics could best serve them. Survey responses, reflecting those of similar surveys conducted throughout the world, indicate that there is a distinct need to both improve several existing surgical procedures, which are presently limited by the restricted accessibility and precision of the human hand, as well as to develop entirely new, more efficient procedures, in which robots can play a major role.


 


The recently established Kahn Medical Robotics Laboratory for Research and Instruction combines the advanced technological capabilities and research expertise of Technion faculty, students and facilities, with an exciting new field that holds great potential for significantly improving and modernizing millions of medical procedures that are carried out each year. Building upon a strong base of ongoing Technion research, the establishment of this laboratory places Israel in the forefront of medical robotics research, and facilitates the transformation of the vast potential of this innovative field into tangible, practical applications.


 


The Kahn Medical Robotics lab that is located in the Technion’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering will enable both the training of specialists in the emerging field of medical robotics, and the development of a pioneer version of a surgical assistant robot which will delineate guidelines for the development of future medical robots.

Development and introduction of a precise robotic guidance system is expected to significantly improve surgical outcomes and to therefore dramatically cut costs by decreasing the number of necessary revisions.

Furthermore, these systems will have wide-reaching impact as they are remodified for incorporation into other procedures, including spinal surgery. These technologies will also facilitate the development of entirely new surgical techniques. Outlined below are two different medical applications for which robots are being researched and developed by the research team.



 

Development of “Swimming” Robots for Spinal Surgery

In the development of robots for surgery, the research team intends to model and derive fundamental laws of a combination of power source and actuators of an autonomous micro- robot. Research in this field is devoted to the study of three different types of micro-robots.

 

  1.    The first is micro-catheters that enable positioning of micro medical devices in the body but are connected to an external power source.
  2.    The second are smart-pills with internal power source but with limited or no positioning ability.
  3.    The third are swimming micro-robots that are able to position themselves in a fluidic environment.


 

The main medical task for which the theories developed by the team will be tested on is the inspection of the spine in the sub-arachnoid space (SAS). In this study, the status of micro-robots for medical application was reviewed. It was found that with most micro-manipulators built; a truly autonomous micro-robot was not built yet nor analyzed theoretically. The team presents a methodology of designing an autonomous micro-robot by evaluating and comparing different power sources, actuation methods and applying them on a specific environment model. The specific environment model this study focuses on is the swimming inside the spinal canal – in the sub-arachnoid space. Initial morphological study of the spine using intensive MRI study has been conducted to define the geometry of the space in which the micro-robot would swim.

Laparoscopic Procedures

A second potential incorporation of the robotic assistant is in minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures. Laparoscopic surgery is conducted via the use of an endoscope, an optical device that allows for the viewing of internal body cavities. This type of surgery has gained popularity in recent years, and several medical disciplines have incorporated endoscopic techniques into their surgical armament. Millions of laparoscopic surgeries are conducted each year in the fields of ophthalmology, brain surgery and orthopedics, among others. The utilization of robots in these operative fields holds great promise, particularly where high precision is critical to the success of the procedure.



 

 

 Christopher Reeve and Prof. Moshe Shoham, head of the Kahn Medical Robotics Laboratory showing his robot

Back row, left to right: Prof. Moshe Shoham, Head of the Kahn Medical Robotics Laboratory, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering; Prof. Peretz Lavie,Vice President for Resource Development and External Relations; Dr. Lior Gepstein, Head of the Cardiovascular Research Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine; Prof. Karl Skorecki, Head of the Rappaport Institute for Medical Research and Head of the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine; Pres. Yitzhak Apeloig; Prof. Joseph Itskovitz-Eldor, Faculty of Medicine and Director of the Depatment of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Rambam Medical Center


 

“Technion is a model of progressive research,” Christopher Reeve commented after an afternoon at Technion. Reeve is best known as an actor for his portrayal of Superman. A quadriplegic since a horse riding accident seven years ago, Reeve is a crusader on behalf of a cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. He was at Technion on July 31 to learn about its leading work in stem cell research and other medical breakthroughs. During his stay in Israel Reeve visited research centers, hospitals and met with victims of terrorism and accidents, as well as politicians.

Reeve continued, “If it wasn't for Technion’s work, the future would be a lot dimmer than it is. Your work has been especially advanced, courageous and ethical. The purpose of work here is based on compassion for other people. Because of compassion, you have the courage to try new procedures.”

He learned about the latest advances in stem cell research from Rappaport Faculty of Medicine members, Prof. Joseph Itskovitz-Eldor and Dr. Lior Gepstein. Prof. Karl Skorecki also of the Faculty of Medicine spoke about bio-ethics in relation to stem cell research. Prof. Moshe Shoham of the Faculty of

 

Mechanical Engineering presented the work he is doing on miniature robotic surgeons for knee and back surgery. Reeve also had a private meeting with two Technion students who have spinal cord injuries.

Technion President Prof. Yitzhak Apeloig welcomed Reeve and thanked him for coming to Technion and to Israel. “Your personal courage and vision influenced many people. You encourage many people who fight daily with different physical disabilities.”

Reeve expressed his excitement and joy over the work that is being done at Technion and in Israel in general. “I am grateful to Israel, Sweden, Australia and Singapore - countries that are leading the way in stem cell research,” he commented upon his departure.