Dutch Scientists Find Inspiration In Wasps In The Creation Of A New Surgical Tool


What’s the scariest thing about wasps? Their sting could be one thing, but some species actually possess a more scary attribute. Some lay eggs deep inside the other insects. When this happens, the wasp larvae proceed to eat the animal from inside to out.

However, there are also more to wasps that meet the eye. The insects have inspired a medical tool that promises to improve keyhole surgery down to its very core. The new instrument designed by these scientists is a fine tube capable of removing unwanted tissue.

The fine tube has the ability to get into blood clots or cancer cells from hard to reach places. It could be used to place medicines as well. This can be particularly helpful when using as radioactive particles to treat cancer at its exact location.


The New Tool

The new surgery tool made is based on the egg-laying organ of parasitic wasps. This could significantly advance minimally invasive surgery by allowing tissue removal to happen in deeper areas of the body. And because of its minimal size, it’s also capable of lowering trauma and patient recovery time. Researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands had based their prototype design on the ovipositor of wasps. This is an ultra-thin flexible organ that makes use of friction forces that is generated by sliding internal blades. This allows effective transport and export of medicines or particles on a rather small scale.

This innovative tissue-transport device was inspired by the egg-laying organs of parasitic wasps. When fully developed, this remarkable piece of instrument could significantly push the field of minimally invasive surgery (MIS) forward. This statement has been made by a new study in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. The prototype has already been developed by the researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

They researchers behind the design aim to allow MIS techniques to be used for hard-to-reach areas of the body. Thus, being able to greatly reduce the trauma that comes with surgery, and if successful, recovery time can be shortened as well.


All about the Ovipositor

As indicated previously, the ovipositor is an ultra-thin organ, shaped much like a flexible hollow needle. This is oftentimes used by parasitic wasps to lay their eggs in trees or in hosts. Found within this delicate organ is a series of tiny blades that converge together with a tongue-and-groove mechanism. The blades that come with it can also slide independently of each other in order to create friction. The force is a mechanical movement that becomes the heart of thei design.

Dr Aimée Sakes is the study lead of the Bio-Inspired Technology Group at Delft University of Technology that, in turn, is led by Prof Dr Paul Breedveld. She explained, “The wasp ovipositor is so thin that it can’t actually fit any muscles within it, so we knew it was a clever mechanical solution worth studying to see if we could recreate it.” She further stated, “The ovipositor-inspired transport system uses friction generated between the blades and the tissues to transport those tissues, in the same way the wasp ovipositor works to transport wasp eggs.”

When these friction based techniques in the design is used for new surgery devices, the method could allow researchers to break the boundaries that the current tools are limited with. That’s because the available technology works by suctioning. This can be challenging because suction-based devices lose efficacy once they are decreased in size past a certain point. Thus, limiting the tissue damage done during surgery isn’t always possible.

Dr. Sakes stressed, “We already see challenges arise with current devices, as they often get clogged when removing things like blood clots.” She also said, “We also currently can’t reach remote locations in the human body or perform surgery in miniature structures, such as parts of the brain, due to the relatively large size of MIS instruments. However, our system could potentially enable the removal of tumorous tissues deep inside the human body through miniature incisions in future.”

There is a major drawback of the newly developed tool. They are still worried about the speed at which it transports tissues. The prototype is still significantly slower than current suction-based devices. This is why further research still needs to be made before this can be fully implemented for surgical use. Still, the research looks very promising at this point. When perfected, this can offer very promising potential to treat diseases that are currently untreatable. This has the capability to reach places that existing equipment cannot. More importantly, they are optimistic that this can definitely lower trauma with MIS.

Frontiers In Blog
Frontiers In Blog

The tools that had been used for suctioning cancer cells would get clogged up during keyhole surgeries. The one prevents it with the help of friction, which is the same way wasps lay eggs inside another insect. The thin surgical tool now has six semi-cylindrical blades surrounding a tube that suctions the cancer cells. The friction created by the alternating the blades is an innovation worth exploring.