Sometimes the biggest stories are also the tiniest ones.

Today we’re looking at a big and little development in medicine and technology: a robotic system that can autonomously move a medical needle safely through living tissue.

Health care has been using robotics for a long time, to help make surgery and testing more accurate and less invasive.

The idea from this team at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, which includes physicians, engineers and computer scientists, is that an autonomous robot could get surgical tools, medicines and other treatments even more closely to where they need to go because the robot would be in the targeted area of the patient’s body instead of looking at the target area through a camera.

The research team created a device that learns where to go and where not to go from three-dimensional CT scans taken ahead of a procedure.

Then it can maneuver its way to the target area while avoiding blood vessels and other tissue that should remain uncut.

All of this is complicated enough, but the team focused its project on an autonomous robot that could move a needle through lung tissue.

Not only does it have to know where to go, it has to get there in living, breathing, moving lung, while it’s actually being moved around inside an organ that is itself in motion almost all the time.

The team was able to prove that its system could do the work.

And after more testing, refinement and clinical trials, the tiny robot system could be assisting in lung biopsies in the future – and helping to steer our medical care in the right direction.

Starting tomorrow in Grand Marais, Minnesota, it’s the Moose Madness Family Festival.

There are costume contests, art projects, and looks of opportunities to see live moose and moose of the mascot variety.

Plus, there’s a Moose Medallion Hunt: if you find the thing and bring it to festival HQ, you win a hundred bucks!

Medical robot steers needle through living lung⁠ (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill)

⁠Moose Madness Family Festival⁠ ⁠

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Photo by Caren via Flickr/Creative Commons