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Dr. Garnette Sutherland, University of Calgary

Dr. Garnette Sutherland, University of Calgary

When Dr. Garnette Sutherland and his colleagues at the University of Calgary took on the challenge of making neurosurgery safer they looked to space R&D and Canada’s most famous robotic and technological achievement – the Canadarm.

Teaming up with space robotic engineers from MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates in Brampton, Ont., government agencies, research foundations, healthcare professionals and philanthropic Calgarians, the multi-disciplinary team of experts led by Sutherland developed the neuroArm to aid in precision microsurgery.

The Canadarm earned enduring fame on NASA’s Space Shuttles and the International Space Station but the possibilities for the neuroArm, a neurosurgical robot, are equally out of this world.

Sutherland and his team at the U of C worked for years developing high-resolution real-time magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of patients’ brains to bring into the operating room. They then collaborated with the engineers at MDA to create a machine that is as precise and as dexterous as the human hand to perform advanced surgical techniques.

The world’s first image-guided, MR compatible, robotic neurosurgical procedure was successfully performed on a 21-year-old Calgary woman in 2008 to remove a benign growth deep in her cranial cavity.

The neuroArm has been used on dozens of brain operations at the Calgary Foothills Medical Centre since then and the team continues to advance the field of robotics in the Project neuroArm research facility at the Health Research Innovation Centre, University of Calgary.

Development of a next-generation neuroArm2 is under way incorporating advances in technology, MR imaging and neuroscience. The vision for stage 2 is cell surgery. The team is setting the benchmark for universities and hospitals around the globe with their research on integrating advanced technology in the treatment of individuals who suffer neurological disease.

For more information about the neuroArm click here.

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