Why Put a Robot Inside an MRI?
Michael Alba posted on October 31, 2016 |
A rendering of the GuidaBot robotic manipulator operating on a patient within an MRI machine. (Image courtesy of University of Houston.)

A rendering of the GuidaBot robotic manipulator operating on a patient within an MRI machine. (Image courtesy of University of Houston.)

GuidaBot LLC is a startup developing a robotic system capable of functioning within the strong magnetic field of a magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) machine. The company recently received a

National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of USD $250,000 to develop and commercialize its technology, which aims to allow doctors to perform biopsies on patients within an MRI machine.


Image While You Operate

The GuidaBot system is designed to enable doctors to perform multimodal image-guided robot-assisted surgeries (MIROS), allowing faster and more precise procedures. The basic idea is to use real-time MRI in conjunction with robotic manipulators so doctors can perform a variety of procedures on virtually any area of the body.

One of the novelties of GuidaBot’s technology is its use of solid-fluid transmission (SFT) actuation, which has been demonstrated to be compatible with MRI scanners.

"While similar robotic systems use complex piezoelectric, pneumatic or hydraulic motors, we're developing ours using solid-media transmission, a fundamentally new way of transmitting force," said Nikolaos V. Tsekos, the principal investigator of the technology.

The NSF grant will enable further development and testing of the prototype robot and computational methods developed by GuidaBot. More proof-of-concept studies are planned with MRI phantoms (specially designed image testing objects used in lieu of living subjects).

The GuidaBot system is designed to be scalable and modular to be useful for a wide range of procedures. (Image courtesy of University of Houston.)
The GuidaBot system is designed to be scalable and modular to be useful for a wide range of procedures. (Image courtesy of University of Houston.)
The company believes its technology has a large market potential, as it claims to be the only true real-time MRI solution on the market. Clearly, the NSF sees the potential as well.

"We hope that this seed funding will spark solutions to some of the most important challenges of our time across all areas of science and technology," said the NSF’s Barry Johnson. For its part, GuidaBot plans to put the funding to good use.

"The grant will help us maintain momentum in the lab to commercialize the device for medical use," said GuidaBot research and development director Michael J. Heffernan. "Continued support from the National Science Foundation further validates our work and positions us to actively and effectively pursue strategic partners and investors."

For more medical robotics, find out what these origami robots can do inside the human body.

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