Science and Technologies Of Robotics in Medicine (STORM) Lab
University of Leeds
At the STORM Lab, we strive to enable earlier diagnosis, wider screening and more effective treatment for life-threatening diseases such as cancer.
We do so by creating affordable and intelligent robotic solutions that can improve the quality of life for people undergoing flexible endoscopy and laparoscopic surgery in settings with limited access to healthcare infrastructures.
The research focus of the STORM Lab spans several fields of surgical robotics, with particular focus on medical capsule robots, robotic endoscopy, soft surgical robots, affordable medical devices and autonomy in robotic surgery. We cover the full spectrum of surgical robotic research, from basic hypothesis-driven scientific investigation, to translational approaches toward first-in-human trials.
Magnetic fields offer the possibility of manipulating objects from afar and are safe for medical applications, as they penetrate human tissue without any harm to the patient. At the STORM Lab, we leverage magnetic manipulation to enable tiny medical instruments to reach deep within the human body to diagnose and treat life-threatening diseases, while minimising the invasiveness of the procedure and the risk to the patient.
Knowledge of position and orientation of medical instruments manipulated via magnetic fields inside the patient’s body is crucial for their intelligent control and reliable operation. At the STORM Lab, we are interested in real-time localization techniques for magnetic payloads that are compatible with magnetic manipulation and can be adopted in clinical practice.
Soft Medical Robots
Soft robots are increasingly common due to their inherent safety when interacting with people and their potential to be fabricated at a low cost. At the STORM Lab, we are exploring pneumatic, hydraulic and magnetic soft robots to provide minimally invasive access to specific surgical sites via complex winding pathways. We are particularly interested in affordable designs to enable cancer screening in low-resources settings being performed by personnel without a specialist medical training.
Our Research Projects
Affordable Intelligent Endoscopy
As the World Health Organization (WHO) recently highlighted, sustainable development in low resource countries will be hard to achieve unless the international health and development community addresses the enormous global burden of surgical conditions. There is an urgent need to scale-up surgical services to prevent them becoming a major barrier to national income growth, economic productivity, and improved human welfare.
Our innovative endoscope design aims to deliver an equivalent, or improved range of motion when compared to conventional gastroscopes, while being ultra-low-cost, disposable and extremely intuitive to use.
Water-jet actuation inside a portable platform with disposable components and autonomous operation based on image analysis and feature extraction.
Medical Capsule Robots
Capsule robots are mesoscale devices that leverage extreme miniaturization to access environments that are out of reach of larger robots and that can push the boundaries of how diseases are diagnosed and treated. In medicine, capsule robots can enter the human body through natural orifices or small incisions and perform diagnostic and therapeutic maneuvers while minimizing the invasiveness of the procedure.
The Magnetic Flexible Endoscope
We are disrupting colonoscopy with a new design of robotic endoscope that will enable painless, safer, easier and more affordable investigations of the large intestine.
Magnetically Guided Ultrasound
In collaboration with our partners at the University of Glasgow, we have created a pioneering capsule capable of performing diagnostic micro-ultrasound within the gastrointestinal tract under intelligent magnetic control.
Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) is a difficult technique to access, diagnose and operate on the internal organs of the human body through tiny incisions with the benefit of a fast recovery for the patient. With our activities, we try to make minimally invasive surgery easier to perform and more effective via innovative robotic approaches.
We are exploring the idea of using miniature magnetic tentacles to reach many areas of the body that are currently difficult - or even impossible - for surgeons to access.
Da Vinci® Research Kit (dVRK)
We are the only research group in the world with a dVRK in a soft-tissue (Thiel-embalmed) cadaver Lab. With this unique capability, we are exploring strategies for shared control of the dVRK combined with advanced learning techniques, in order to enable a closer collaboration between the surgeon and its robotic assistant.
Magnetic Actuation of Surgical Instruments
MIS typically uses anywhere from three to six ports for a given procedure, with each port increasing the potential morbidity from bleeding, port-site hernia, and internal organ damage. Using magnetic manipulation to transmit forces across the abdominal wall, we can reduce the number of incisions to one and enable surgical instruments to reach a wider workspace.
Sponsors and Collaborators
Research funding and strategic collaborations are crucial for us to progress our pioneering research. Here we would like to acknowledge and thank each funding body and industrial partner that have contributed to the successes of the STORM Lab.
I am developing a small robotic device to replace the conventional colonoscope. This new robot could allow live images and tissue biopsies to be taken of the colon. It has the potential to be a simple and effective procedure with minimal patient discomfort – improving on some of the main drawbacks of the current procedure.
The latest developments from the STORM Lab
BBC Digital Planet reporter Madeleine Finlay visited the International Robotics Conference and discussed with Joe Norton, a postdoctoral researcher part of the team involved with the robotic colonoscopy platform about
STORM Lab engineers have helped show it is technically possible to guide a tiny robotic capsule inside the colon to take micro-ultrasound images. Known as a Sonopill, the device could