The use of maggots to remove dead or diseased tissue has been around since ancient times and is still used by some physicians today. A neurosurgery professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore named J. Marc Simard is developing a mechanical version of a maggot that removes cancer tumors from brains, leaving healthy gray matter alone. It does this with a cauterizing tool that burns away the tumor and then a suction device that removes the remnant.
Standard brain surgery to remove tumors is often impeded because of the difficulty of distinguishing between healthy and diseased tissue. A physician can spot the tumor in an MRI, but surgery, while a patient is inside a powerful magnetic field, is impossible.
The robot maggot solves the problem because it is operated under remote control. The device is inserted into the brain through a small incision and remotely guided by the surgeon with the assistance of the MRI. The robot maggot destroys the tumor and then is removed, a minimally invasive surgery. Tumors that were hard or impossible to get to are accessible.
The robot maggot device is still in the early stages of development. Control systems, which consists of pulleys and springs, need to be refined. Animal studies have proven to be promising, however.
Brain tumors are among the trickiest sorts of cancer to treat. The disease and even the treatment can cause profound personality changes, the brain being the center of one’s self. Sometimes, a diagnosis of a brain tumor is a death sentence if the cancer is too deep and inaccessible to treat. The robot maggot, when it is finally introduced into a clinical setting, could help to change that.
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