Researchers from UNC -Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt University have developed a flexible and sturdy robot that can navigate through lung tissue. The robot has reached a new milestone by autonomously avoiding important structures, such as airways and blood vessels, in a living laboratory model. This technology allows surgeons to reach small targets in the lungs that would otherwise be difficult to access. The development of the robot involved collaboration between medicine, computer science, and engineering. The robot is made up of various components, including a mechanical control for controlled thrust and a needle made of a flexible alloy that can steer around obstacles. CT scans and artificial intelligence are used to create 3D models of the lung, which allow the robot to know where it is going and avoid important structures. The robot can also account for the movement of the lungs during breathing. Although there are still some challenges to overcome, the researchers are excited about the potential of this technology to improve medical outcomes for patients with lung cancer. They plan to continue developing autonomous medical robots that combine robotics and AI.
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