Soft Robots for Stroke Intervention

Lead researchers: Professor Andrew Fleming (Engineering) and Dr Ferdinand Miteff (Health)

Associated research group: Precision Mechatronics Laboratory

Every nine minutes an Australian suffers a stroke, totalling 55,831 people in 2019. One quarter of these strokes, totalling 12,507 people, result in death, which is double the total number of deaths from prostate and breast cancer combined.

There are currently 475,000 Australians living with the effects of stroke, which is predicted to increase to one million by 2050. Stroke has a major economic impact as 50% of stroke survivors become dependent on carers. The financial cost of stroke is $5 billion per annum, which is comparable to the total national expenditure on government run schools.

Due to the high social and financial cost, there are major efforts underway to minimize the risk factors and patient impact of stroke. It is now known that long-term disability is minimized by early treatment with a thrombolytic drug, then removal of the clot. The problem is that clot removal is a complicated and expensive procedure which is only successful for a small fraction of patients due to the difficulties in navigating a guidewire to the correct location in the brain. This research project aims to significantly increase success rates be developing a soft robotic catheter that can advance up a vessel and turn corners.

Preliminary work over the last two years has demonstrated a robotic catheter that can climb large vessels; however, further development is required to miniaturize the technology and advance it to the point where it can be used for preclinical studies. The end goal of this project is to reduce the difficulty and cost associated with clot removal so that the 60,000 patients who experience stroke in 2023 and onwards will have significantly improved outcomes.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.