Inspired by Singapore's famous chili crab dish, researchers have created a miniature robot with a pincer and a hook that can remove early-stage stomach cancers endoscopically.
Dr Lawrence Ho from Singapore's National University Hospital, who helped design the robot, said it helped remove early-stage stomach cancers in five patients in India and Hong Kong, using a fraction of the time normally taken in open and laparoscopic surgeries.
Dr Louis Phee, associate professor at Singapore's Nanyang Technological Institute's school of mechanical and aerospace engineering, helped design the robotic system with Dr Ho. The system consists of a master console and a slave robotic manipulator that holds a grasper and a monopolar electrocautery hook.
They developed it after a seafood dinner in Singapore in 2004 with top surgeon Dr Sydney Chung of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who suggested they fashion their device after the crab. Dr Chung is best known for leading efforts to fight SARS in Hong Kong in 2003.
"He (Chung) suggested we used the crab as a prototype. The crab can pick up sand and its pincers are very strong," said Dr. Ho.
"Many things are a certain way because they have evolved and adapted to certain functions ... we created something that followed the human anatomy and borrowed ideas from nature and incorporated the two."
The researchers formed a company in October 2011 and hope to make the master-slave robot system commercially available for natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) in three years.
(EurekAlert, Tan Ee Lyn, January 2012)
Robots take to the ER