Mechanical Reconstruction of a Chameleon Tongue (Closed)

Chameleons are able to shoot their tongues with accelerations of up to 50g to capture prey. To do this, they use a very specialized mechanism, involving elastic structures and muscle activation. A similar system is currently not seen in any other mechanical product or medical instrument. A shooting mechanism, similar to that of a chameleon can give important insights into new ways to accelerate projectiles.

Therefore, the goal of this research project is to design a mechanical shooting mechanism with similar characteristics using the chameleon’s tongue as inspiration.

Contact: Aimée Sakes,

Chameleon copy

Design of instruments for veterinary interventions

If you are looking for a challenging assignment that combines bio-inspiration with actual animals, I have currently multiple projects available directed towards veterinary research. The projects are in collaboration with the Rotterdam Zoo and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University Utrecht. Projects are aimed at surgical interventions of different types of animals, including elephants, rhinos, birds, and horses. A selection of the projects is illustrated below:

– Suturing abdomen of larger animals

Suturing of the abdomen of larger animals is difficult and often results in ripping along the suture line due to the large force on the stitches. This ripping will in most cases lead to death of the animal. Since operations, such as caesarean sections, can be necessary at time to safe both the mother as well as the offspring, a solution should be found for this problem.

– Trachea occlusion removal device

Birds often have long flexible necks. Sometimes, a fungus infection can cause a localised inflammation in the trachea, causing a pasty mass. This mass can grow into a larger thrombus-like clot in the trachea, causing severe dyspneu and finally the death of the bird. To remove this occlusion, there are currently no easy tools available that can reach the occlusion site. Therefore, a device should be developed.

– Abscess removal device in the feet of elephants and rhinos

Due to the use of hard and straight concrete floors in many zoos, rhinos and elephants can develop foot problems. These problems start at an early age, as the sole surface of the foot becomes flat instead of showing the typical skin pattern as is normally seen in wild rhinos. Because of this, rhinos easily develop foot lesions that can result in large abscesses on the dorsal side of the foot. The current treatment tools to remove this abscesses are not optimal. Therefore, a redesign is necessary.

– Design of an stand-up aid for horses after surgery

When horses suffer a bone fracture, the bone needs to be surgically stabilised using screws and plates. In many cases this is done successfully. However, after the horse wakes up after surgery, they are often very tense and tend to panic, which can result in refracture of the bone. The goal of this project is to design a device that can help the horse to stand up safely after the surgery.

Contact: Aimée Sakes,

Morcellator Redesign

Cushing’s disease is a neurological disorder caused by the loss of dopamine secretion in and near the pituitary gland. Unlike in human Cushing’s disease, where surgical removal of the pituitary tumors is a common treatment modality, in horses oral treatment is the treatment of choice. This oral treatment does not provide a long-term solution to the disease, as it is focused on symptom reduction and does nothing to fight the actual cause of the disease.

In collaboration with the department of Veterinary medicine Utrecht, a new paradigm of surgical treatment of Cushing’s disease in horses has been developed that uses the vascular system in combination with an innovative flexible morcellator to reach the pituitary gland. This flexible morcellator incorporates a rigid tip with a resection tool and a flexible shaft, which incorporates a cable drive element, used for actuating the resection tool, and a central tissue transportation lumen.

Further development of this device is necessary before clinical use can commence. Redevelopment should focus on adding steerability, improving the cutting blade design, and adding a means of visualizing the pituitary tumors.

We are currently also exploring the possibility to redesign this instrument for human surgery.

Contact: Aimée Sakes,

Design of an Innovative Endovascular Crossing Device (Closed)

Design of an innovative catheter to cross total occlusions in the heart using a local force loop or locomotion method inspired by nature.

Chronic Total Occlusions (CTOs) are currently the last frontier for cardiovascular surgery. CTOs are defined as heavily calcified occlusions in the vascular system of the heart that slowly form over time and are at least three months old. Due to this relatively slow process, the body is able to bypass the occlusion to provide the part distal to the occlusion the needed oxygen and nutrients it needs to function. However, these bypass vessels, also known as collaterals do not provide sufficient oxygen and nutrients to the heart to work at full capacity.

To improve the success rate of these kinds of interventions it is necessary to develop a new tool that is able to cross the CTO using a local force or locomotion method. Inspiration for such a crossing tool can be found in animals that are able to fixate themselves to other animals or substrates, think of the remora (a fish that sucks itself to the bottom of a shark) or animals that move in substrates, such as worms and other digging species.

Contact: Aimée Sakes,