• By Susan Buckles

Science Saturday: A robotic GPS for targeting, delivering regenerative biotherapies

October 2, 2021
graphic demonstrating a remote-controlled bronchoscoperobotic targeting location of cancer

A remote-controlled bronchoscope that acts like a GPS system hunts down hard-to-find lung masses and accurately biopsies them, according to a Mayo Clinic collaborative study. This multisite research, which is published in Annals of Thoracic Surgery, lays the foundation for precisely finding early-stage cancer and targeting it with regenerative biotherapeutics needed to stimulate healing.

Artificial intelligence gleaned from CT scans directs the robotic fiber optic cable, providing a GPS-like pathway to tiny nodules, or masses, that manual bronchoscopes might miss. A biopsy is performed through the airway, rather than through the skin, which may make it easier for patients to tolerate. The surgeon navigates the bronchoscope with a remote guidewheel, tracking by screen its journey in real-time through the lungs.

"In the past, we didn't have a reliable way of reaching these nodules in the lungs from within the airway. This is a very small catheter that gets almost anywhere, and is able to access and biopsy lung nodules," says Janani Reisenauer, M.D., first author on the study and a Mayo Clinic thoracic surgeon. "It's very similar to driving a car and having your normal street view with the aid of the GPS in your car telling you in real-time where to turn right and left to arrive at your destination."

With an eye on the future, Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine is collaborating with Mayo Clinic's Division of Thoracic Surgery to develop biotherapeutics that may one day be delivered through such robotic bronchoscopes. The new technology offers hope of targeting restorative therapies to cancer cells while preserving surrounding healthy tissue.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic and five other academic medical centers tested this remote-control technology on 241 patients. In the widest range study of this particular technology to date, the robotic bronchoscope accurately located and biopsied 271 lung nodules. The study found very low risk of lung collapse or bleeding.

Read the rest of the article on the Center for Regenerative Medicine blog.

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