Salt-sized robot to remove clots from brains

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

What is the width of a human hair, the size of a grain of salt and could save lives?

The Neuroglide microrobot.

An electrically powered micromotor the size of a grain of salt, the Neuroglide has been developed as a world-first in Melbourne to navigate its way through the arteries of the human brain and remove life-threatening blood clots in stroke victims.

Placed at the end of a soft plastic tube, or catheter, and driven by remote control, the Neuroglide can move with precision to the left, right, forwards and backwards through tiny arteries, helping doctors to access and remove clots in parts of the brain that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Revealing the Neuroglide at the Royal Melbourne Hospital on Tuesday, neurointerventionist Bernard Yan said currently about 15 per cent of stroke victims died because the blood clot in their brain could not be accessed down a winding path of arteries.

He said it was hoped the Neuroglide would reduce this figure to less than five per cent of those patients, as well as speeding up the life-saving treatment for many others.

Currently doctors use plastic catheters without a motor on the tip and steer the catheter manually up to the brain by pushing it and pulling it from where it is inserted in the leg artery.

The Neuroglide will assist the process with its precision steering.

"Now we're able to have a microrobot attached to a microcatheter, which allows for much better manoeuvrability and navigation capacity, so we can get around winding arteries that we previously couldn't get around," Associate Professor Yan said.

After six years in development, the Neuroglide was revealed by Prof Yan and its co-inventor, RMIT professor and Vice-Chancellor's senior research fellow James Friend.

It has been tested in laboratories but will require further years of testing before it can be used on live patients.

- AAP

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