Robotic Devices Move Into the Mainstream…and Beyond

Cardiogenesis, an Irvine, CA-based medical device company that specializes in devices that stimulate cardiac angiogenesis, submitted a PMA last week for its minimally invasive Robotic 5.0 PEARL Delivery System. The PEARL, which stands for Port Enabled Angina Relief, uses Cardiogenesis’ Transmyocardial Revascularization technology to deliver precise bursts of Holmium:YAG laser energy to an area of ischemic myocardium. During a typical procedure, approximately 20-35 channels are made in the heart muscle. These channels promote the growth of new blood vessels, which provide the damaged heart tissue a better supply of blood and oxygen.

The PEARL System is designed to operate through a 5.0 mm port using Intuitive Surgical‘s da Vinci Surgical System, a robotic operating device that’s controlled by a doctor watching a patient on a monitor; the surgeon’s hand movements are scaled, filtered and translated into movement of the device’s four robotic arms. davinci.jpg

The daVinci system, on the market since 2000, was mentioned in a recent article in The Mercury News about the growing numbers of robotic devices being made by med tech firms in Southern California. The piece says the daVinci system, which is made by a company called SRI International (and sold by Intuitive), is “among the most popular operating robots in use today… used in more than 500 hospitals for everything from repairing heart valves to removing cancerous tissue.”  

Last year, the daVinci system was part of a test that looked at how the device could perform underwater — with a physician operator on land, miles away. The device sutured a dummy, a feat that the News calls “especially noteworthy given the two-second lag that occurred between the doctor’s orders and the machine’s response.” That test was a precursor to another hosted last week by NASA, whose long-term mission is to determine whether the system could eventually be used to operate on astronauts in outer space.

Other applications are in sight: The News says NASA also is considering using the daVinci system to conduct weightless simulations on an airplane. And the paper points out, “The military long has had an interest in medical robots and in 2005 it gave SRI $12 million to help develop a robot system called Trauma Pod. Pentagon officials envision transporting it around battlefields in a tank-like vehicle, linked to a human doctor in a command post miles away. The idea is to have the robot stabilize wounded solders until they can be hospitalized.”

Other So Cal companies with robotic technologies mentioned in the News article include Accuray and Hansen Medical. Accuray’s CyberKnife technology autonomously tracks, detects and corrects for tumor and patient movement in real-time during a procedure. Last month, Accuray signed a deal with another local company, CyberHeart, by which CyberHeart will use the CyberKnife to develop a non-invasive method for performing cardiac ablation. Hansen Medical makes a product called Sensei, a robotic platform for placing mapping catheters in hard-to-reach places within the heart; FDA cleared the product for commercialization earlier this month.

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