SW-4-3-3: Targeted therapy at small scales: possible approaches and challenges ahead

Prof. Arianna Menciassi, Scuola Superiore San'Anna, Italy


The main issues when approaching diagnosis and therapy at the milli and micro scale are: 1) reaching the target area, that normally is remote and with small size, and 2) bringing therapeutic solutions to the selected target area. With traditional size approaches, the target area is reached by motorized tools, cable actuated instrumentation, or catheter-like structure piloted directly by the operator. This direct-drive approach is generally not feasible in the micro scale: miniature robots with embedded diagnostic and therapeutic tools are still at an early stage of development, mainly due to the bottleneck of adequate actuation technologies. On the other hand, technologies for minimally invasive therapy and diagnosis evolved dramatically in the last decade, thus generating new paradigms for, e.g., radio or US-based therapy with an increased precision of targeting than before. In addition, the problem of reaching remote regions of the human body and there delivering therapy has been approached by exploiting actuation techniques that are different from motors and cable-drive solutions, and that are based, e.g.. on “wireless” magnetic forces. Starting from the above considerations, this talk will discuss the combination of external robotic strategies and micro-nano-technologies, in order to smoothly passing from systemic therapy to targeted therapy, and thus approaching both the issues of targeting and therapeutics delivery. In particular, the speaker will illustrate a preliminary platform for vascular plaque targeting, based on magnetic dragging and ultrasound tracking. Different solutions for plaque treatment will be proposed: a strategy to magnetize the plaque and collecting plaque debris magnetically, and a promising solution for mechanical attack of the plaque by focused ultrasound, that can be precisely delivered and locally enhanced to the target.

Speaker Biography

Arianna Menciassi (M’01) is Associate Professor of biomedical robotics at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (SSSA, Pisa, Italy). She received the Master Degree in Physics (with Honors) from the University of Pisa in 1995 and the PhD in Bioengineering from the SSSA in 1999. The main results of the PhD activity were awarded with the Best Manipulation Paper Award at ICRA’2001. She teaches at the SSSA and at the University of Pisa (Master Degree in Bioengineering). Her main research interests are in the fields of surgical robotics, biomedical micro- and nano-robotics, micromechatronics. She is working on several European projects and international projects for the development of miniature robotic solutions for medical and surgical applications. In the year 2007, jointly with the team working on capsule endoscopy at the SSSA, she was awarded with the Well-Tech Award 2007 (Milano, Italy). In the same year, she was awarded with the Gonfalone d’Argento of the Tuscany region, as one of the best ten young talented researchers of the region. Since the year 2009, she has been affiliated member of the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT, Genova, Italy) and she collaborates with the IIT Center of MicroBioRobotics@SSSA on selected topics related to smart materials and robotic technologies in the microdomain.