According to a University of Maryland news release the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $2 million grant to UMD and UMB to further their development of a tiny surgical robot that would assist neurosurgeons in the removal of hard to reach brain tumors. The robot is known as the Minimally Invasive Neurosurgical Intracranial Robot (MINIR) and has been under development at the Robotics Automation & Medical System Laboratory for a number of years. The MINIR Prototype has been tested while under continuous magnetic resonance imaging. The grant will allow the development of a second-generation prototype, MINIR-II. From the MINIR website:
"We envision MINIR to be under the direct control of a human operator, with targeting information obtained exclusively from frequently-updated MRI. MINIR will be fully MRI compatible, so that frequently-updated MRI can be used to provide virtual visualization of the target by the human operator as the target's 3-dimensional shape changes during tumor removal."
As seen in the rendering above, the MINIR robot will fit inside the MRI scanner with the patient, allowing surgery to be done while the patient remains in the MRI machine. For all the details, you can check out the paper, "Toward a Meso-Scale SMA-Actuated MRI-Compatible Neurosurgical Robot" (PDF format). Other papers about the MINIR robot may be found on the MINIR project webpage. Read on to see photos and video of the earliest MINIR prototype in action.