NWO – Ultra-Thin Steerable Needle for Solid-Organ Interventions – WASP

This research project is part of the iMIT research programme and funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The iMIT Program, executed by a community of Dutch Universities, university medical centers, and companies, aims to develop instruments for minimally invasive interventions. The program will result in the development of interactive Multi-Interventional Tools (iMIT)  that can adapt to their environment and integrate diagnostic and therapeutic functionalities, thus permitting effective single-procedure interventions.

The WASP project focuses on medical needles – common devices used in minimally invasive percutaneous procedures, such as localized therapeutic drug delivery or tissue sample removal (biopsy). Reaching the target with high accuracy and precision is necessary for the success of these procedures and becomes a challenge when the target is located deep inside the body. The surgeon needs a steerable flexible needle that can follow complex curved trajectories while avoiding sensitive structures, such as blood vessels, located along the trajectory between the insertion point and the target site. Looking in nature we find an interesting behavior in wasps which can be used as source of inspiration for facing this challenge. The wasp has a thin and flexible needle-like structure, called ovipositor, used for laying eggs into larvae hidden inside fruits or wood. It is composed of three longitudinal segments, called valves, that can be actuated individually and independently of each other with musculature located in the abdomen of the insect. In this way the wasp steers the ovipositor along curved trajectories inside different substrates without a need for rotatory motion or axial push.

Inspired by the anatomy and the steering mechanism of this needle-like structure we aim to develop an ultra-thin steerable needle that can follow curved paths through complex solid organs while avoiding obstacles.