The University of Twente in Enschede, Netherlands, has announced creation of the world’s smallest and most accurate 3D-printed biopsy robot. Made from 3D-printed plastic and driven by air pressure, the robot, Stormram 4, is used to sample suspicious tissue that is identified during an MRI examination.

“The advantage of plastic is that the robot can be used in a MRI scanner,” according to the university. Previously, mechanical biopsy devices have contained metal, and they can't be placed in MRIs because of the strong magnetic fields used during procedures, which would affect their accuracy. "Carrying out a biopsy during a breast cancer scan within a MRI significantly increases accuracy” of the sample of tissue being extracted for study, developers say.

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MRI scanners are very accurate in detecting and visualizing the location of abnormal tissue, researchers say, but full accuracy remains limited as long as needles are being controlled by hand. Cells can be lost during traditional breast biopsy procedures, but Stormram 4 collects the cells needed for a biopsy.

Stormram 4 supports the entire diagnostic phase of breast cancer as accurate needle control, real-time MRI scanning and a single thin-needle biopsy enable quicker and more accurate diagnoses to be made.

The robot is controlled from outside the MRI scanner via 5 meter long air pipes and can fit inside the MRI scanner tunnel. Special needles, the tip of which can be very hot or very cold, make it possible to destroy tumor cells close to the tip of the needle, enabling non-invasive surgical procedures. Stormram won an award during the Surgical Robotic Challenge in London.

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