British scientists are developing a tiny robot to fit inside MRI machines, which will improve the accuracy of biopsies taken to screen for prostate cancer.
Needle biopsies are currently taken from the prostate using ultrasound technology to detect where the prostate gland is.
But Dr Alex Zivanovic, of Imperial College London, told CNN that ultrasounds provided poor image quality, which makes knowing where to take the biopsy from difficult.
“Several samples are usually taken, but it’s a lucky dip as to whether you’ve got a relevant one. The tumor could be quite small and you could miss it altogether,” he said.
Zivanovic and a group of scientists at the mechatronics in medicine laboratory at the college’s department of mechanical engineering are now developing a system involving magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners.
The project is being funded by the National Health Service (NHS) Prostate Cancer Programme, and the machine will be developed within the next year and a half.
“MRI machines are the best way to image soft tissue inside the body, but although using MRI is preferable, to do so involves a very tight space inside the scanner tunnel. There’s not much space in there, which makes it difficult,” Zivanovic said.
The scientists will build a robot that will be controlled outside the scanner, while the patient will lie inside the tunnel as normal.
The MRI technology will enable them to know exactly where the biopsy needs to be taken from.