In 2005, McGowan Institute
member Marco Zenati, MD (pictured), a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine professor of surgery and biomedical engineering, and Howie Choset, PhD, a Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor, co-founded Cardiorobotics Inc. -- among the most successful of the 42 start-up companies spun off from University of Pittsburgh research since 2003. Through Cardiorobotics, Drs. Zenati and Choset have created a system that enables a tiny robot to enter the body through a 10-millimeter hole during surgery.
The central element of their technology is a teleoperated probe consisting of a series of links. The probe is highly flexible and thus either assumes the shape of its surroundings or can be reshaped. The probe “remembers” its previous configurations as it moves through a three-dimensional volume. The links of the probe can be made out of almost any material, including plastic, allowing it to be “disposable.” A working channel or lumen, allows tools to pass through the probe and perform various procedures. This teleoperated, highly articulated probe with a non-linear lumen is called an Articulated Robotic MedProbe or ARM™. Plans for ARM™ include minimally invasive cardiac surgery and laparoscopic and gastro-intestinal procedures.
"We're looking at using the technology with humans in the next 6 to 12 months," Dr. Zenati said.
The clinical benefits to patients are profound when an “open” procedure can be made minimally invasive. By definition, performing any procedure less invasively results in less soft tissue disruption, with the effects of reduced pain, faster healing and recovery, and fewer complications. Documented advantages of less invasive procedures include smaller incisions and fewer injuries to major blood vessels and nerves. Other benefits reported include, reduced blood loss and decreased post-operative pain, and shorter hospital stays and faster return to normal activity for the patient. Further, despite the higher capital expense of equipment needed to operate in a minimally-invasive fashion, overall costs of minimally-invasive procedures can be significantly lower.
Dr. Zenati is also Director of the Center for Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery and Robotics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery at the VA Pittsburgh HealthCare System, Adjunct Faculty at the Robotics Institute and Adjunct Associate Professor of BioMedical Engineering both at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Zenati performed the first U.S. robotic beating-heart coronary artery bypass surgery in 2000.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (10/31/08)
Bio: Marco Zenati, MD
Biorobotics Laboratory, The Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University