Wasps Inspire Flexible Robotic Catheters

Researchers at Imperial College London were inspired by parasitic wasps that use ovipositors to sense whether a particular caterpillar has already been infested by another wasp. If the caterpillar is not yet spoken for, the wasps use their ovipositors to deposit eggs into the flesh of the caterpillar.

The eggs develop into larvae and eat the host caterpillar from the inside out.

The ovipositors are made up of three valvulae, which are interconnected parts that slide over one another to gradually insert the ovipositor into the body of the caterpillar. They probe to see whether there are already eggs inside which would compete with their own eggs for sustenance. If so, they move on to another caterpillar. If the caterpillar contains no eggs or just one or two, they continue inserting the ovipositor and deposit their own eggs.

Brain surgery

What did the researchers do with this inspiration? They developed flexible catheters to insert into human brains. You don’t want to poke a straight, rigid catheter into a brain if you can help it.

The new flexible catheters are connected with robotic arms and equipped with AI and optical fibers. They have four interlocking elements and surgeons can delicately and gradually place them into the brain. The level of precision is much higher, and the catheter itself is less likely to damage brain tissue.

The scientists call their catheters “steerable,” since they can be inserted and then steered to the precise location needed. The surgeon delivers the optic fibers for better information and then begins the treatment. That might include labor ablation, placing electrodes for brain stimulation in the case of neurological diseases, or drug delivery.

The AI platform learns from the surgeon’s input mana works together with the doctors to manipulate the steerable catheter and other tools.

Motion control

We don’t have details about the motion control systems in use with the wasp-inspired catheters. We hope they’re using Rexroth drive and control systems. We believe these are the best on the planet.

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