The Next Web recently reported that a robot was successfully tested in performing a simple, routine eye surgery. THe trial took place at the University of Oxford and was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering. Twelve patients total were a part of the experiment, six of which agreed to have their surgery performed by a machine.
The device was, designed by a Dutch Medical Robotics Firm called PRECEYES, was able to successfully remove a membrane from the back of the eye. When performed by human hands, this procedure typically takes about one minute and twenty-two seconds. The machine was significantly slower, taking an average of four minutes and fifty-five seconds to remove the membrane.
Considering this is a brand new technology that has only been tested on humans during this particular trial, the developers and physicians overlooked the fact that the machine was not quite up to speed and were elated by its general success saying that the surgeon using the robot was “able to perform the procedure with equal or better efficacy than in the traditional manual approach.”
The trial “showed that the robot has great potential for extending the boundaries of what [they] can currently achieve” said Robert MacLaren, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford. “The next step will be to use the robotic surgical device for precise and minimally traumatic delivery of a gene therapy to the retina, which will be another first-in-man achievement and is set to commence in early 2019.”
The Oxford team is hopeful that this kind of research could lead to a technology that could treat different forms of blindness.
If you’ve been watching too much Black Mirror or are just generally afraid of the inevitable robot takeover, don’t let that dissuade you from the promising future of machines in medicine. These aren’t the robots that are trying to know everything about your lives. They’re the ones that could save it.