The Medical Robotics Laboratory at the University of Georgia (UGA) aims to use quantitative engineering analysis to gain a better understanding of the human body and the technologies that we interface with it and to use that understanding to design better therapeutic strategies, devices, and diagnostics. We aspire to serve society by developing new tools to improve human health.

As a medical imaging and robotics research group, we focus on enabling technologies for image-guided robotic devices used in patient rehabilitation, surgery and diagnosis.



Soft-Robotic Endoscope Tip Design


Soft robotics is a new and unique system for designing and creating a new generation of medical devices. With soft robotics, silicone-based molds can be controlled and driven using nothing more than tubing and air pressure. Employing the principles of soft robotics, we are attempting to create a new kind of endoscope made from a silicon-based material.


Hemodynamic Monitoring derived from Magnetohydrodynamic Voltages induced during MRI



To develop a technique to non-invasively estimate stroke volume (SV) in real-time during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and interventional procedures using
induced magnetohydrodynamic voltages (V MHD ). V MHD overlays occur on electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings during MRI exams, induced due to interactions between aortic blood flow (BF) and the magnetic field of the MRI scanner (B 0 ). As a result, resolved V MHD can potentially be used to provide beat-to-beat SV estimates.



Blood Volume Distributions in the Human Body derived from Magnetohydrodynamic Voltages in MRI


The magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) effect arises in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners when rapid ejection of blood from the left ventricle into the aortic arch interacts with the static magnetic field, inducing MHD voltages (V MHD ). This V MHD appears as a voltage overlaid on top of Electrocardiogram (ECG) traces acquired inside the MRI, peaking during cardiac systole. We aim to assess additional vascular (regional) contributions to V MHD induced in ECG recordings.




Robot for MRI-guided Prostate Cancer Focal Laser Ablation



Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among males, leading to approximately 27,000 deaths in the United States. Focal laser ablation (FLA) has been shown to be a promising approach for prostate cancer treatment with the advantage of efficiently ablating the cancer cells while inflicting less damage on the surrounding tissues. We hypothesized that a compact design of an MRI-conditional robot with two active planar DoFs, one passive rotation DoF, and remote catheter insertion capacities could enhance the clinical workflow required for MRI-guided FLA prostate procedures.



Treatment Planning for MRI-guided Prostate Focal Laser Ablation



Compared to prostatectomy, image-guided focal laser ablation (FLA) is a minimal invasive approach for treating prostate cancer that better preserves the
neurovascular bundles. Visualase-based FLA which is currently in use relies on a rigid template for catheter guidance to deliver laser energy at the target position.
However, the accuracy and efficacy of the manual catheter targeting and manipulation approach are subject to the skills of the interventional radiologist. The NIH OncoNav is a surgical planning software optimized for MRI-guided prostate FLA procedures. The software was integrated with a robotic catheter guide and tested in three canine studies.


Robot for MRI-guided ALS Spinal Therapy



Limited treatment options are available for treating Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Small animal models have shown promise in halting neurodegeneration associated with ALS where cellular therapeutics are delivered to the ventral horn of the spinal cord, although this procedure is invasive and requires multi-level laminectomy and dissection of the dura mater. We hypothesized that SpinoBot, a robotic needle guidance platform could deliver cellular therapeutics to the ventral horn percutaneously under MRI guidance, enhancing upon existing invasive and time-consuming techniques for targeting injection sites.




Defining the Relationship of Magnetohydrodynamic Voltages and Magnetic Field Strength



This study aims to define the relationship between induced V MHD and magnetic field strength in a controlled setting. Through modulating the distance between a pair of magnets around a flow channel, we hope to better realize the relationship between magnetic field strength and induced V MHD with constant flow and electrolytic solution concentration.



Magnetic Alignment Detection Using Existing Charging Facility in Wireless EV Chargers



A magnetic sensing system for alignment in wireless EV chargers. The system utilizes the existing charging facility to generate a magnetic field and sense the relative distance between the two coil centers. The system also requires four minor coils to be installed on the secondary pad for direction detection using triangulation. The four small coils are also able to adjust the alignment when the two major coils are close enough, ensuring the primary and secondary pads are well aligned.


SpinoTemplate: A Platform for MRI-Guided Spinal Cord Injections


Patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis have limited treatment options and a 20% survival rate within five years of diagnosis. Small animal models show promise for halting the associated neurodegeneration when cellular therapeutics are delivered to the ventral horn of the spinal cord. A template-based guidance system was developed to facilitate percutaneous injections under MRI guidance to improve upon existing invasive and time-consuming surgical techniques. Procedure duration was 30 min plus 5 min per insertion, with a mean error of < 2 mm.




MAPS – A Magic Angle Positioning System for Enhanced Imaging in High-Field Small-Bore MRI



The magic angle" MRI effect can enhance signal intensity in aligned collagenous structures oriented at approximately 55 with respect to the main magnetic field. The difficulty of positioning tissue inside closed-bore scanners has hampered magic angle use in research and clinics. An MRI-conditional mechatronic system has been developed to control sample orientation inside a 9.4T small bore MRI scanner. The system orients samples to within 0.5 and enables a 600% increase in tendon signal intensity.




A Uniform Voltage Gain Control for Alignment Robustness in Wireless EV Charging


The efficiency of wireless power transfer is sensitive to the horizontal and vertical distances between the transmitter and receiver coils due to the magnetic coupling change. To address the output voltage variation and efficiency drop caused by misalignment, a uniform voltage gain frequency control is implemented to improve the power delivery and efficiency of wireless power transfer under misalignment. The frequency is tuned according to the amplitude and phase-frequency characteristics of coupling variations in order to maintain a uniform output voltage in the receiver coil. Experimental comparison of three control methods, including fixed frequency control, resonant frequency control, and the proposed uniform gain control was conducted and demonstrated that the uniform voltage gain control is the most robust method for managing misalignment in wireless charging applications.


Evaluation of an active magnetic resonance tracking system for interstitial brachytherapy


In gynecologic cancers, magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is the modality of choice for visualizing tumors and their surroundings because of superior soft-tissue contrast. Real-time MR guidance of catheter placement in interstitial brachytherapy facilitates target coverage, and would be further improved by providing intraprocedural estimates of dosimetric coverage. A major obstacle to intraprocedural dosimetry is the time needed for catheter trajectory reconstruction. Herein the authors evaluate an active MR tracking (MRTR) system which provides rapid catheter tip localization and trajectory reconstruction. The authors assess the reliability and spatial accuracy of the MRTR system in comparison to standard catheter digitization using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and CT.


A MR-conditional High-torque Pneumatic Stepper Motor for MRIguided and Robot-assisted Intervention



A simple design of MRconditional stepper motor which can provide precise and high-torque actuation without adversely affecting the MR image quality. This stepper motor consists of two MR-conditional pneumatic cylinders and the corresponding supporting structures. Alternating the pressurized air can drive the motor to rotate each step in 3.6° with the motor coupled to a planetary gearbox.




Global Handwashing Day 2012: a qualitative content analysis of Chinese social media reaction to a health promotion event


Global Handwashing Day (GHD) is a handwashing promotion campaign organized by the Global PublicPrivate Partnership of Handwashing with Soap. In China, it has been promoted by the Chinese public health authorities, international organizations and multinational corporations through various channels including social media such as Sina Weibo, the leading Chinese microblogging site similar to Twitter. The objective of this study is to qualitatively assess Chinese social media users’ reactions to a health promotion campaign using Global Handwashing Day (GHD) 2012 as an example.


Intra-cardiac MR imaging & MR-tracking catheter for improved MR-guided EP



We constructed an ICMRI catheter, with integrated imaging & positional-tracking elements, optimized for cardiovascular introduction as a sheath “riding on” an EP ablation catheter & for close-proximity imaging (~4 cm FOV) during RFA delivery.



EP Catheter Design


EP therapy is suitable for many prevalent arrhythmias in which abnormal re-entry circuits in the heart muscle are ablated to avoid electrical interferences, but this procedure suffers from a 30-50% recurrence rate, and requires long operations. The high recurrence rate is due to the poor identification of the re-entry circuit tissue. The study objective is to develop a system for MRI-guided EP therapy, which could improve EP surgical outcomes by clear visualization of the ablated tissue in MRI.



Brain Biopsy Frame


This project aims to develop a stereotactic rigid frame system to assist veterinary radiologists for performing high-precision stereotactic procedures in dogs. The frame design consists of a stereotactic localizer box and localizer arch, and a software needle trajectory interface. The localizer box will be made MRI compatible with a GE 3T MRI scanner, allowing the box to hold the subject’s head inside an MRI head coil during scanning whilst maintaining the same coordinate framework for subsequent needle therapy in the brain.



MRI-Compatible Actuator


The MR environment imposes significant restrictions on the device design, as any device applied within it must be MR compatible. MR compatible equipment are required to cause negligible adverse effects on the image quality and scanner operation during their normal operating condition. Furthermore, an MR compatible device should cause no additional risk to the patient by way of induced forces, torques, induced currents or heating. Unfortunately, devices incorporating electronic components experience mutual electromagnetic interferences (EMI) by interaction with the scanner magnetic fields and detector coils.



MRE (Magnetic Resonance Elastography)




The 12-lead Electrocardiogram (ECG) is a clinical standard for patient physiological monitoring. Obtaining high-fidelity ECGs is essential for patients undergoing cardiovascular interventions, especially heavily sedated, intubated or with ischemic and stroke history. An accurate ECG is also important for MRI scans synchronized with the cardiac cycle’s phases. Acquiring uncorrupted ECG traces inside MRI is challenging due to strong interferences during periods of MRI Gradient Ramps and High-voltage diode-decoupling-voltage transmission to the body coil (GR&RF), and Magneto-Hydro-Dynamic voltages.


Magic Angle


We hypothesized that an automated positioner, using a custom-designed pneumatic motor and optical encoder, could (1) permit accurate placement of tissues relative to B0, and (2) facilitate Magic Angle enhanced imaging in a 9.4T small-bore (12cm) scanner while maintaining excellent MRI compatibility.




Prostate Biopsy Robot


The study objective is to develop an automated robot for multi-functional MR-guided prostate therapy, to target abnormalities identified on MRI and to perform the procedure easily and quickly. Pilot clinical studies will be included to validate the system’s use in a hospital setting.






Smartphone Dev


Dr. U is one of many applications being developed by our group for the health/medicine industry. Specifically, Dr. U is an interactive educational game to raise your awareness of health and hygiene.





MRI Tactile Array


For greatly increased diagnostic capability, an MRI-compatible tactile sensor design is proposed, which allows Minimally Invasive Surgery to be performed under image guidance, combining the strong capability of MRI soft tissue imaging and intuitive palpation. The sensing unit is based on a piezoelectric sensor methodology, which conforms to the stringent mechanical and electrical design requirements imposed by MR environment.




In China, Weibo is an extremely popular microblogging site that is equivalent to Twitter. Capitalizing on the wealth of public opinion data contained in posts on Weibo, this study used Weibo as a measure of the Chinese people’s reactions to two different outbreaks: the 2012 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak, and the 2013 outbreak of human infection of avian influenza A(H7N9).




Wireless Energy Transfer


Electric Vehicles (EV) have gained in popularity due to environmental concerns, increases in price of fossil fuels, and a subsequent desire to move toward renewable energy sources, despite issues associated with EV usage including infrastructure maintenance, vulnerabilities to inclement weather and vandalism, as well as overlooking making charger connections. Wireless Charging (WC), which operates on magnetic resonance for Wireless Power Transfer (WPT), allows these problems to be alleviated.




Smart Segway


Design of an open-source Segway-based personal vehicle by undergraduates in a Medical Robotics Laboratory taught course in Mechatronics. Students were able to incorporate sophisiticated smartphone technology into the vehicle to create a sort of Smart Segway.






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