Summer 2009 - Fall 2010. We propose to investigate an entirely new approach for designing and developing in vivo mobile robotic devices for minimally invasive surgery (MIS) and future natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) applications. The use of in vivo mobile robotic devices has a clear advantage over the current state of the art where numerous incisions are used for the insertion and manipulation of long rigid tools. In vivo robots provide for an unconstrained platform for visualization, manipulation, and surgical treatment of tissue. However, engineering design of in vivo robots is challenging and the design of mobility for in vivo robots inevitably involves the interaction between tissues and device. Furthermore, the tissue properties are different for each organ, each patient, and even at different points in the surgery.

The overarching goal of this research project is the development and verification of a deployable mobile in vivo robotic device that is capable of traversing the abdominal cavity and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The specific research tasks include 1) tissue mechanical property measurements and predictive modeling; 2) modeling of wheel-tissue interaction and wheel design optimization; 3) initial robot prototyping and animal testing in collaboration with surgical partners at the University of Colorado at Denver (UCD) School of Medicine.

Should this exploratory work succeed the potential for technological and scientific growth in this area, at the University of Colorado, is enormous. The PI has a strong history of collaborations with surgeons and has a secondary appointment in the department of surgery at UCD. Before joining the University of Colorado, he worked for five years investigating the design and development of surgical devices. Dr. Qi, the principal collaborator is a leader in mechanical characterization of tissues and materials. The IGP is ideally suited to nucleate the synergy between these two investigators and UCD surgical collaborators.