SpinoBot: An MRI-Guided Needle Positioning System for Spinal Cellular Therapeutics


The neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) results in the death of motor neurons in voluntary muscles. There are no cures for ALS and few available treatments. In studies with small animal models, injection of cellular therapeutics into the anterior horn of the spinal cord has been shown to inhibit the progression of ALS. It was hypothesized that spinal injection could be made faster and less invasive with the aid of a robot. The robotic system presented—SpinoBot—uses MRI guidance to position a needle for percutaneous injection into the spinal cord. With four degrees of freedom (DOF) provided by two translation stages and two rotational axes, SpinoBot proved capable of advanced targeting with a mean error of 1.12 mm and standard deviation of 0.97 mm in bench tests, and a mean error of 2.2 mm and standard deviation of 0.85 mm in swine cadaver tests. SpinoBot has shown less than 3% signal-to-noise ratio reduction in 3T MR imaging quality, demonstrating its compliance to the MRI environment. With the aid of SpinoBot, the length of the percutaneous injection procedure is reduced to less than 60 min with 10 min for each additional insertion. Although SpinoBot is designed for ALS treatment, it could potentially be used for other procedures that require precise access to the spine.

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This study was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Bench-to-Bedside Award, the NIH Center for Interventional Oncology Grant, the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Team Grant (1617340), NSF REU site program 1359095, the UGA-AU Inter-Institutional Seed Funding, the American Society for Quality Dr. Richard J. Schlesinger Grant, the PHS Grant UL1TR000454 from the Clinical and Translational Science Award Program, and the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Zion Tsz Ho Tse.

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Associate Editor Xiaoxiang Zheng oversaw the review of this article.

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Squires, A., Oshinski, J.N., Boulis, N.M. et al. SpinoBot: An MRI-Guided Needle Positioning System for Spinal Cellular Therapeutics. Ann Biomed Eng 46, 475–487 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10439-017-1960-z

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  • MRI-guided intervention
  • Spinal injection
  • Stem cell therapy
  • Medical robotics
  • MRI compatible