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Surprising Science

Tiny Robot Hand Could Revolutionize Surgery in Utero

A £10m project is underway to develop a mechanical set of pincers to perform risky procedures.

What’s the Latest?

£10m has been invested in a project that hopes to construct a tiny surgical hand that can perform surgery on fetuses (or foetuses, if you’re The Guardian). The goal is to transform the way procedures are done in utero and curb the number of children born with conditions such as spina bifida, which is when a baby is born with an underdeveloped or unfused spine. If successful, a wide range of new surgeries could become possible and multiple diseases would become treatable with little risk to the unborn child and mother.

What’s the Big Idea?

The robot hand is currently in the research stage at University College London (UCL) and KU Leuven in Belgium with funding from both the Wellcome Trust and the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council.  Although treating spina bifida is a primary concern for researchers (the condition affects about one in 1,000 babies and can lead to serious neurological disorders), the device could also treat twin-to-twin-tranfusion syndrome and other fetal disorders. As procedures in the womb are both risky and difficult, the researchers are dedicated to creating the best possible tools for the job.

Read more at The Guardian

Photo credit: Zffoto/Shutterstock


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